Anne Hamby, an associate professor in the Department of Marketing, published a paper titled “You don’t have to tell a story! A registered report testing the effectiveness of narrative versus non‑narrative misinformation corrections” in the Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications journal. Hamby’s paper can be accessed here.
Misinformation is becoming an ever greater threat to the health and safety of modern societies, and this research examines the efficacy of different ways to “debunk” belief in misinformation.
Misinformation often has an ongoing effect on people’s memory and inferential reasoning even after clear corrections are provided; this is known as the continued influence effect. In pursuit of more effective corrections, one factor that has not yet been investigated systematically is the narrative versus non-narrative format of the correction. Some scholars have suggested that a narrative format facilitates comprehension and retention of complex information and may serve to overcome resistance to worldview-dissonant corrections. It is, therefore, a possibility that misinformation corrections are more effective if they are presented in a narrative format versus a non-narrative format. The present study tests this possibility. The authors designed corrections that are either narrative or non-narrative, while minimizing differences in informativeness. In all three experiments, it was found that narrative corrections are no more effective than non-narrative corrections. Therefore, while stories and anecdotes can be powerful, there is no fundamental benefit of using a narrative format when debunking misinformation.
“The results were very surprising to me,” said Hamby. “I have seen through my own and others’ research the persuasive power of narratives. However, it appears that it does not generalize to the context of reducing belief misinformation.”
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications publishes new empirical and theoretical work covering all areas of cognition, with a special emphasis on use-inspired basic research: fundamental research that grows from hypotheses about real-world problems. Authors are expected to be able to explain in a “Significance” section how their basic research serves to advance our understanding of the cognitive aspects of a problem with real-world applications.