The Stickiness of Misinformation

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 10 October 2012

Together with colleagues Ullrich Ecker, Colleen Seifert, Norbert Schwarz, and John Cook I recently published a review paper of the literature on misinformation—why does misinformation "stick" to people's memories? Why would anyone believe patent nonsense, such as the claim that President Obama was born outside the U.S.? And how can we help people discard such erroneous beliefs?

The citation for the paper can be found below, and here are links to a fairly extensive follow-up interview conducted by the American Psychological Society:


Lewandowsky, S.; Ecker, U. K. H.; Seifert, C.; Schwarz, N. & Cook, J. (2012). Misinformation and its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13, 106-131.

Bookmark and Share


Comments 1 to 15:

  1. Billy Blofeld at 06:02 AM on 11 October, 2012

    Has there been any research done on state broadcasters and their broadcast of misinformation?

    State broadcasters appear to wield very potent weapons which magnify the stickiness of misinformation:

    1) Misinformation by omission of counter argument

    2) Misinformation through continual self-promotion by a biased broadcaster falsely portraying themselves as being impartial

    3) Self regulating state broadcaster which investigates and rejects all accusations that it broadcasts misinformation


    Billy Blofeld
    United Kingdom
  2. Stephan Lewandowsky at 12:39 PM on 11 October, 2012
    @1: Interesting questions but, alas, I know of no research that has addressed them.
  3. The thing I'm learning from your work, Stephan, is that repetition of facts can help, but framing is just as important when misinformation has 'stuck'. And as I understand it, it's best to avoid repeating the misinformation as far as possible, instead present the facts and try to acknowledge/appeal to the values of the person to whom you are talking.

    For example, with climate change discussions on the internet, the person to whom you are really talking might be a reader other than the person to whom you are responding (ie you're not necessarily 'talking' to the person who is presenting the misinformation). A bit like debates where the speakers are actually talking to the audience not the opposing debating team.

    I find this and similar research important and helpful even for the layperson. (I reckon some people are beyond what can be done in normal discussions, they need a few sessions of therapy to shift the misinformation they cling to, and even that might not be enough.)
  4. There's an interesting piece on the Australian Psychological Society's website:

    Understanding the psychological barriers to climate change action, by Dr Susie Burke MAPS, Senior Psychologist, Public Interest, Environment and Disaster Response, APS National Office
  5. This is highly informatics, crisp and clear. I think that everything has been described in systematic manner so that reader could get maximum information and learn many things.
    dj und hochzeit
  6. japan.comp234 at 18:04 PM on 7 October, 2015
    Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include.
    phuket nightlife
  7. Wow what a Great Information about World Day its very nice informative post. thanks for the post.
    free facebook likes
    free youtube views
  8. japan.comp234 at 23:44 PM on 10 October, 2015
    I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog!
    free twitter followers instantly
    free youtube subscribers
  9. japan.comp234 at 20:46 PM on 12 October, 2015
    That is the excellent mindset, nonetheless is just not help to make every sence whatsoever preaching about that mather. Virtually any method many thanks in addition to i had endeavor to promote your own article in to delicius nevertheless it is apparently a dilemma using your information sites can you please recheck the idea. thanks once more.
    Social Kickstart Review
  10. japan.comp234 at 18:36 PM on 14 October, 2015
    Love to read it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks.
    phuket wedding planner
  11. Please continue this great work and I look forward to more of your awesome blog posts.
  12. nice post, keep up with this interesting work. It really is good to know that this topic is being covered also on this web site so cheers for taking time to discuss this!
    SociSpot Review
  13. Love what you're doing here guys, keep it up!..
  14. Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging,
    internet marketing consultancy
  15. brad.haddon234 at 23:51 PM on 28 November, 2015
    Pleasant post. I was checking always this web journal and I'm inspired! To a great degree valuable data extraordinarily the last part I tend to such data a ton. I was looking for this sure data for quite a while. Much obliged to you and good fortunes. technology articles
Comments Policy

Post a Comment

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or register a new account.