Correction format has a limited role when debunking misinformation

Briony Swire-Thompson, John Cook, Lucy H. Butler, Jasmyne A. Sanderson, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker
Springer Link
6, Article number: 83 (2021)
December 29, 2021


Given that being misinformed can have negative ramifications, finding optimal corrective techniques has become a key focus of research. In recent years, several divergent correction formats have been proposed as superior based on distinct theoretical frameworks. However, these correction formats have not been compared in controlled settings, so the suggested superiority of each format remains speculative. Across four experiments, the current paper investigated how altering the format of corrections influences people’s subsequent reliance on misinformation. We examined whether myth-first, fact-first, fact-only, or myth-only correction formats were most effective, using a range of different materials and participant pools. Experiments 1 and 2 focused on climate change misconceptions; participants were Qualtrics online panel members and students taking part in a massive open online course, respectively. Experiments 3 and 4 used misconceptions from a diverse set of topics, with Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdworkers and university student participants. We found that the impact of a correction on beliefs and inferential reasoning was largely independent of the specific format used. The clearest evidence for any potential relative superiority emerged in Experiment 4, which found that the myth-first format was more effective at myth correction than the fact-first format after a delayed retention interval. However, in general it appeared that as long as the key ingredients of a correction were presented, format did not make a considerable difference. This suggests that simply providing corrective information, regardless of format, is far more important than how the correction is presented.

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