Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Truth Be Told?

..[A] series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on peoples' minds after it has been debunked -- even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation seems to increase the power of misinformation."

Shankar Vedantam, The Power of Political Misinformation, Washington Post, September 15, 2008

So, what's the incentive for telling the truth or, at least, correcting campaign misinformation? Is a reasonable amount of truth-telling a threshold requirement for democracy? As we've seen over the last few weeks, one presidential campaign keeps repeating or obliquely referencing misinformation. This is not about who makes mistakes about claims, but who corrects incorrect or misleading claims-- or just stops making them.

"Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals. Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might "argue back" against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in misinformation."

Yes, this conclusion was drawn by researchers who happen to be Democrats.

I was surprised during a dinner last week when several established policy professionals repeated misinformation about "sex education" and "lipstick on a pig." Misinformation triumphs.

I wonder how McCain's misinformation about the economy will play?

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