Do people keep believing because they want to? Preexisting attitudes and the continued influence of misinformation
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Misinformation—defined as information that is initially assumed to be valid but is later corrected or retracted—often has an ongoing effect on people’s memory and reasoning. We tested the hypotheses that (a) reliance on misinformation is affected by people’s preexisting attitudes and (b) attitudes determine the effectiveness of retractions. In two experiments, participants scoring higher and lower on a racial prejudice scale read a news report regarding a robbery. In one scenario, the suspects were initially presented as being Australian Aboriginals, whereas in a second scenario, a hero preventing the robbery was introduced as an Aboriginal person. Later, these critical, race-related pieces of information were or were not retracted. We measured participants’ reliance on misinformation in response to inferential reasoning questions. The results showed that preexisting attitudes influence people’s use of attitude-related information but not the way in which a retraction of that information is processed.
KeywordsMisinformation Continued influence effect Attitudes Beliefs Motivated reasoning
This research was facilitated by a Discovery Grant and an Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Australian Research Council to the first author, and a Discovery Grant and a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council to the second author. We thank Charles Hanich and Devon Spaapen for research assistance, and Nic Fay for suggesting the stereotype-incongruent scenario used in Experiment 2. The lab Web address is www.cogsciwa.com.
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