The ephemeral effects of fact-checks on COVID-19 misperceptions in the United States, Great Britain and Canada

John M. Carey, Andrew M. Guess, Peter J. Loewen, Eric Merkley, Brendan Nyhan, Joseph B. Phillips, Jason Reifler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Widespread misperceptions about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus threaten to exacerbate the severity of the pandemic. We conducted preregistered survey experiments in the United States, Great Britain and Canada examining the effectiveness of fact-checks that seek to correct these false or unsupported beliefs. Across three countries with differing levels of political conflict over the pandemic response, we demonstrate that fact-checks reduce targeted misperceptions, especially among the groups who are most vulnerable to these claims, and have minimal spillover effects on the accuracy of related beliefs. However, these reductions in COVID-19 misperception beliefs do not persist over time in panel data even after repeated exposure. These results suggest that fact-checks can successfully change the COVID-19 beliefs of the people who would benefit from them most but that their effects are ephemeral.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-243
Number of pages8
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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