Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 303-330

First online:

When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions

  • Brendan NyhanAffiliated withSchool of Public Health, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Jason ReiflerAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Georgia State University

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An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.


Misperceptions Misinformation Ignorance Knowledge Correction Backfire