Debunking guide

keefe

Active Member
Some tips on debunking from the University of Queensland course Denial 101x - the course is about climate change, but the information in this video about the cognitive process applies to any debunking.

Here's a few quotes from the video

Lewandowsky: It’s very challenging to correct misinformation. It’s challenging for a number of reasons, and one of them is fundamentally cognitive... the very act of trying to change your mind and update your memory is very difficult. It is cognitively challenging and complex.
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Ecker: Many people believe that it just might be as easy as telling people: “Look, this is not true,” so you tell them the truth, and then they just go on and behave more rationally, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Simple retractions of misinformation are notoriously ineffective. They just don't work. Once a person has processed information and believed it, it's not possible to just take it back. It will still stay in memory. It will still influence your reasoning, influence your decision-making.
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It's a lot better to give people the fact first, then warn them, "Okay, there's also this myth…" As soon as you say that, people will be cognitively on guard and say, "Okay, what's following now is misinformation. I'm not going to believe it because they already told me that what's going to follow is a myth."
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keefe

Active Member
And here's another video from the same course with John Cook summarising some of the same information -

A myth is like a cog in a person’s mental model, interlocking with all the other cogs. Your alternative fact needs to fit in with all the other cogs. In fact, it should fit even better than the myth. The person should feel as if they understand the world better after the debunking. Also, to help people “let go” of the myth, it’s generally a good idea to put the emphasis on the facts, not the myth. You don’t want to make your debunking all about the myth, thereby “keeping it alive”
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The more familiar people are with a piece of information, the more likely they will believe it’s true. So really, you want people to become more familiar with the facts, rather than the myth. Use the facts as your headline. Start your debunking by talking about the facts.
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There’s a wonderfully concise summary of all this research in a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The book explores what makes a message sticky and memorable. Finally, they address the question – how do you unstick an idea? How do you debunka sticky myth? Their answer is a sticky piece of advice that can be summarised like this: Fight sticky myths with stickier facts. I call this the golden rule of debunking.
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Making your science sticky is a crucial part of debunking a myth. But your job isn’t done yet. Half of a debunking is explaining why the science is right. The other half is explaining why the myth is wrong
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keefe

Active Member
I just posted this on my "climate change myths" thread, but it fits here too - this is a lecture by John Cook about the five characteristics of science denial which can be summed up with the acronym "FLICC":

Fake experts
Logical fallacies: red herring, misrepresentation, jumping to conclusions, false dichotomy
Impossible expectations
Cherry picking
Conspiracy theories

He suggests that it is helpful when debunking to name the particular characteristic being used

 
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