Countering misinformation through inoculation

Author: Stephan Lewandowsky & Sander van der Linden
Published: 2021
There has been increasing concern with the growing infusion of misinformation, or “fake news”, into public discourse and politics in many western democracies. Our article first briefly reviews the current state of the literature on conventional countermeasures to misinformation. We then explore proactive measures to prevent misinformation from finding traction in the first place that is based on the psychological theory of “inoculation”. Inoculation rests on the idea that if people are forewarned that they might be misinformed and are exposed to weakened examples of the ways in which they might be misled, they will become more immune to misinformation. We review a number of techniques that can boost people’s resilience to misinformation, ranging from general warnings to more specific instructions about misleading (rhetorical) techniques. We show that based on the available evidence, inoculation appears to be a promising avenue to help protect people from misinformation and “fake news”.