Changing Conspiracy Beliefs through Rationality and Ridiculing

skephu

Senior Member
A recent paper suggests (somewhat unexpectedly) that rational arguments and ridiculing can be effective against conspiracy beliefs, but emotional arguments are not.

Orosz, G., Krekó, P., Paskuj, B., Tóth-Király, I., Bőthe, B., & Roland-Lévy, C. (2016):
Changing Conspiracy Beliefs through Rationality and Ridiculing.
Frontiers in Psychology, 7.
http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01525/full

Abstract:
 

Attachments

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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The three different approaches:
Ridiculing works when a person is not fully into the theory. People prefer not to be part of a group they know is considered ridiculous.

But I think it important here is that what is really working (in both the "rational" and "ridiculing") is pointing out the logical flaws and inconsistencies in the conspiracy theories (i.e. debunking). Ridicule can work for some people, but it can also backfire, and there's no suggestion that it's necessary.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
Somewhat interesting, if not very limited. weird the abstract says "N=813" when in actuality N=709 (out of 20,000 candidates).
709 divided by 4 is 177 people per group.

and i think it's important to note the empathetic "objects" were very large (faceless) groups of people
i guess i will have to, at some point, find and listen to the presented "CT" and the empathetic challenge to find out how you empathize with bankers :)

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tadaaa

Senior Member
The three different approaches:
Ridiculing works when a person is not fully into the theory. People prefer not to be part of a group they know is considered ridiculous.

But I think it important here is that what is really working (in both the "rational" and "ridiculing") is pointing out the logical flaws and inconsistencies in the conspiracy theories (i.e. debunking). Ridicule can work for some people, but it can also backfire, and there's no suggestion that it's necessary.
I suspect, and I obviously have little evidence either way, that you are right with the ridiculing theory when you point out it can backfire - and the target simply "doubles down"

but often when you are activity engaged in an online discussion with a person who is committed enough to a viewpoint to actually post on it, they are already quite along way down the road anyway - and would hence meet your "fully into the theory" condition

I think the ridiculing approach is probably much more effective on the "lurkers"

when rebutting/debunking some well worn out claim or meme on a blog, in a way that can be considered "ridicule" I often point out I am responding to the "lurkers" and not really the original poster, it is a tacit recognition of the above
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
I think the ridiculing approach is probably much more effective on the "lurkers"
the other problem with ridicule is you never really know if the person or lurker has actually changed their views or if they just say they have. Basically it's "thought-shaming". (which in some situations is definitely called for but i dont think it actually changes anyone's mind.).

I think most of us have experienced situations where, depending on the crowd present, we either dont bring up or dont engage if someone else brings a topic up in which your input will cause 'negativity' either in the form of argument, hurt feelings or [for those sensitive to such things] ridicule to themselves.

And basically, if the goal of ridicule is to change thought patterns, it is bullying sensitive people into changing their behavior/thoughts. Which is counter productive in every way i can think of, especially in a type of CT described in this experiment. I think hurting a budding cter's (or troll's) self esteem would only exacerbate their feelings of powerlessness, which in turn would make them more paranoid and 'cranky' in the long run.

 
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tadaaa

Senior Member
the other problem with ridicule is you never really know if the person or lurker has actually changed their views or if they just say they have. Basically it's "thought-shaming". (which in some situations is definitely called for but i dont think it actually changes anyone's mind.).

I think most of us have experienced situations where, depending on the crowd present, we either dont bring up or dont engage if someone else brings a topic up in which your input will cause 'negativity' either in the form of argument, hurt feelings or [for those sensitive to such things] ridicule to themselves.

And basically, if the goal of ridicule is to change thought patterns, it is bullying sensitive people into changing their behavior/thoughts. Which is counter productive in every way i can think of, especially in a type of CT described in this experiment. I think hurting a budding cter's (or troll's) self esteem would only exacerbate their feelings of powerlessness, which in turn would make them more paranoid and 'cranky' in the long run.


yes to a large extent I agree, and would not use it when there are two valid(ish) opinions, as in politics, economics or social policy (obviously mine are right!!! - but when they conflict with my wife's, she is :))

as it can come over a bullying and "thought police-ish"

I only use it when people are peddling absolute cr4p, cr4p that is demonstrably cr4p given a moments actual thought
 

skephu

Senior Member
In Hungary, the chemtrail theory became known about 4-5 years ago. In the beginning, it was popular on social media, and about 300 people attended a public protest. Then there were a number of smaller protests as well. But a group making fun of the chemtrail believers also formed at the same time, and they always showed up at the chemtrail protests in much larger numbers than the chemmies. Also, a number of articles appeared on the most popular news sites, also ridiculing the chemtrail theory. By now, it has become so embarrassing to be a chemtrail believer in Hungary that the believers are limited to a few small and mostly inactive social media groups with only a handful of hardcore believers. There hasn't been a single protest in several years now because nobody is interested. I think the knowledge that this is a ridiculous thing prevents many people from becoming a chemtrail believer.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
i, personally think ___-shaming works to some extent. But it is frowned upon in my country anyway. There would very very likely be alot less knocked up teenagers if shaming was reintroduced en masse into the culture.

But pretty sure it leaves lasting scars for those who can't live up to the expectations for whatever reasons.

This artcle linked below is somewhat interesting since it applies to the specfic experiment in this study. Unfortunately i know nothing about Hungary or it's politics ergo not sure what it all means. (i also cant read the graphics in the survey) @skephu have you seen this?

 
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skephu

Senior Member
Finally, on another level, 25% of the population believe in the deliberate spraying of people with poisonous materials (chemtrails).
Yes, I read that. It was quite surprising considering the fact that chemmies have practically zero presence on social media now. Anyway, this 25% does not mean active believers. People were asked to indicate whether they would rather agree or disagree with a number of statements including "people are deliberately sprayed with poisons from airplanes". Apparently 25% answered that they would rather agree, but that doesn't mean they actively pursue that belief, it's just an opinion on a statement that many of them may have heard for the first time. There are no organized believers.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I think the knowledge that this is a ridiculous thing prevents many people from becoming a chemtrail believer.
It probably does. There might be a cultural factor here, as well as other confounding factors - the study was of Hungarian people, average age 46, above average education, who trusted the scientific establishment enough to let them test them.

I think the most useful takeaway here is is that debunking works. In both the "rational" and "ridicule" methods what they did was point out the logical and factual inconsistencies of the CT. In the "rational" method they pointed out the logical flaw, and then provided a more detailed explanation of events, in "ridicule" they pointed out the logical flaws and then emphasized how silly it was to believe a theory with such flaws.

The control group listened to the weather forecast. A much more useful control condition here would be simply to do what is common between the "rational" and "ridicule" - i.e. address the same logical flaws (and then listen to the weather forecast). It's possible that the simple addressing of the flaws is all that is needed to get this immediate effect.

And there's a problem with "immediate effect". This study measured only what happens immediate after hearing the rebuttal speeches. It says nothing of what happened a week later.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I've attached the "speeches" to the OP, as it was a little fiddly to find on the web site:
https://www.metabunk.org/attachment...nality-and-ridiculing-data-sheet-2-pdf.23403/

Opening paragraphs of the initial argument and the two relevant rebuttal arguments:

I don't think they exactly address the same logical flaws.

Also in the "ridicule" speech, it's important that they don't really ridicule the person. They even say you can use CT speech to pick up chicks, just really it's kind of silly.
 

Greylandra

Member
Zero presence on social media? Really? I see them all over.
Your online experience may vary. There are hardly two alike anymore. http://www.business2community.com/b...ats-big-deal-social-media-algorithms-01567174
people now see, mostly, what they wanted to see, online.
 

Greylandra

Member
Just my 2 cents. I'm quite firmly on the opposite side of most ideas around here so take it for what it's worth...
I've spent the better part of the past 20 years seeking out all the truth I can find while at the same time persuading everyone around me to treat even the simplest and commonly accepted facts with complete skepticism. :) It's quite empowering tbh. It's my belief that the most effective learning is in the teaching and the teaching is most easily done with a subject wanting to do the lifting. So this means quite a lot of focus on right brain and intuition in addition to rational argument and ridicule... You "lets stop all the CTs/ debunker" guys get so hung up on the pure left brain stuff its kind of amusing really. :p
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
You "lets stop all the CTs/ debunker" guys get so hung up on the pure left brain stuff its kind of amusing really.
i dont think thats completely accurate for the majority of debunkers. Personally it is much easier to de-program CTers :) using both right and left brain methods.
Metabunk though has a specific focus. That is examining 'specific claims of evidence'.. rationally.. Minutely taking the bunk parts out of full theories the whole brain is processing. MB isnt about discussing where and why your general thinking processes might be flawed.
So you have to bear that in mind when 'analyzing' MB debunkers ON MB.

ps ridicule is right brain.

So.. do you think ridicule can be effective in changing minds?
 
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skephu

Senior Member
It's my belief that the most effective learning is in the teaching and the teaching is most easily done with a subject wanting to do the lifting. So this means quite a lot of focus on right brain and intuition
Why do you call that "lifting"? Intution and "right-brain" stuff requires no effort.
 

Critical Thinker

Senior Member
An interesting article came across my news feed "Scientists claim they've developed a psychological 'vaccine' against fake news: Inoculating against misinformation."

Link to full study
 

0x90

Closed Account
It is difficult, but I have come to the conclusion that in some cases, there is no option but to firmly state that you will not engage in any further discussions on the person's pet topics. Maybe this applies more, the closer you actually are to the person. I'll lay out my reasoning:

  • If you engage them in debate, their only takeaway will be that their "ideas" are worth debating.
  • If you instead try to be polite and just endure listening to them, this is taken similarly -- they will take it as indicating their ideas are worth being heard.
  • If you ignore them with no explanation, this will surely be taken by them as their having won a "victory".

Which leaves only one option: to ignore them, but only after having made a clear and firm statement that this is what you are going to do. Naturally, the "victory" angle will still be in play, but it will not be left as a loose end. And as possibly concerns your own pride, it makes no difference, since you know very well that "victory" would have been declared just the same, in any case.

Beyond this, a phrase recently popped into my head, which I found to be perhaps interesting: "They trumpet their own ignorance, precisely in order that they might wear the resulting ridicule as a badge of courage."

The context is that I was contemplating how someone could be so blind to reason that it becomes nearly impossible to believe that they aren't actually aware on some level; the questions being, on what level, how, and why? When a person gets in with a group of like-minded people, there exist any number of ways to make an impression on, or raise status within the group. One way (especially with religion-tinged groups) would be in showing how much the person is "suffering" for the cause, and in this case, the more outrageous the claims, the more "suffering" produced, and the more status may be gained within the group.

The mark of such a group might be seen in whether it involves a certain camaraderie based both on is members subscribing to a particular core set of beliefs, and on the "persecution" of its members for their remaining true to those beliefs. For such a group, the more likely to provoke ridicule the beliefs are, the better.

For such a person, your responses will be all they are after, and I'd predict that they'll move to ever more inexplicable extremes to solicit more of them from you. Because it is not actually the debate they are after, but rather only the fact of being opposed; because in a twisted way, to be ridiculed is precisely the thing they are after.

And when this is the case, I think it presents a nearly perfect trap for any who would be inclined to engage them, since it might take someone a good long while to perceive that the person on the other side is not interested in the actual debate, at all.
 

Rory

Senior Member
A caveat here: it may also depend on what we're looking for.

Are we looking for signs that we've gotten through to them?

Are we looking for our own triumph and victory?

There's always the possibility that people go away and think about what we've said. That their minds will change later on, and that we may never see it. That this may take a day or a year or a lifetime, but we'll have played a part in it, however small.

It's happened to me, on both sides of the equation.
 

Critical Thinker

Senior Member
Via ScienceAlert on Facebook (Interesting comments) I came across an article published in The Conversation: Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds. I recommend reading the complete article.

Excerpts:

Why People believe:

Author:
Mark Lorch
Professor of Science Communication and Chemistry, University of Hull
How to address the issue:

 
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Critical Thinker

Senior Member
Perhaps one of the more effective rational approaches in changing conspiracy beliefs and in which to look at life in which there is very little we can be absolutely certain about (IMHO).

From the article linked to below:


A worthwhile read in the NYTimes: Knowledge, Ignorance and Climate Change

Excerpts:




 
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Leifer

Senior Member
"You can ridicule a plan by explaining it's low feasibility, or you can ridicule a plan by insulting the person who invented the plan. But you can't ridicule a successful plan, even if it was invented by an idiot."

=quote, unknown=
;)
 
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