Misinformation and public opinion of science and health: Approaches, findings, and future directions

Abstract: A summary of the public opinion research on misinformation in the realm of science/health reveals inconsistencies in how the term has been defined and operationalized. A diverse set of methodologies have been employed to study the phenomenon, with virtually all such work identifying misinformation as a cause for concern. While studies completely eliminating misinformation impacts on public opinion are rare, choices around the packaging and delivery of correcting information have shown promise for lessening misinformation effects. Despite a growing number of studies on the topic, there remain many gaps in the literature and opportunities for future studies.  Paper at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33837143/

Combating the COVID-19 Infodemic Through Evidence-Based Misinformation Management Strategies

Funding Source: U.S. Food & Drug Administration via a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)

Total Amount:  $224,478.00

Project period: 09/30/2021 to 06/29/2024

Project Summary: We propose a multi-phase research project that culminates with developing the first evidence-based guidance on messaging that combats misinformation during public

health crises. We begin the proposed project with a targeted literature review on public

health misinformation management strategies, coupled with an FDA expert solicitation.

Throughout the project, we will continuously update the targeted literature review with

the latest science on public health misinformation management. Next, we conduct two online experiments with U.S. adults, oversampling for African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos, to understand which message features are most effective at combating a variety of public health misinformation types for different audiences. We conclude the project with misinformation management message guidance for the FDA. Ultimately, the FDA can use this message guidance to address misinformation on a broad array of issues, including the availability, safety and efficacy of drugs and other treatments; preventions for COVID-19; and public health measures to combat future public health crises. Experts indicate that the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of new COVID-19 strains and vaccine distribution hurdles make it difficult to forecast when COVD-19 will end. What is easier to forecast is that the challenge of public health misinformation will persist well into the future.

The Effects of Corrective Communication and Employee Backup on the Effectiveness of Fighting Crisis Misinformation

Abstract: Crisis misinformation, including false information about a crisis or a crisis-stricken organization, has become a fundamental threat to organizational wellbeing. Effective crisis response geared toward fighting crisis misinformation demands a more systematic approach to corrective communication. Grounded in misinformation debunking theory, this study aims to advance misinformation research in public relations and organizational crisis communication. An online experiment using a U.S. adult sample (N = 817) was conducted to examine the effects of corrective communication strategy (simple rebuttal vs. factual elaboration) and employee backup (present vs. absent) on perceived message quality, organizational reputation, and perceived crisis responsibility. Results show: 1) the use of factual elaboration and the presence of employee backup were direct contributors to crisis response effectiveness; and 2) perceived message quality mediates the effect of corrective communication. This study provides insights into advancing crisis communication theory and offers evidence-based recommendations for practitioners to combat crisis misinformation more effectively.

Yan Jin, Toni van der Meer, Yen-I Lee (Grady PhD Alum), and Xuerong Lu (Grady PhD Student). (Forthcoming).

Misinformation and public opinion of science and health: Approaches, findings, and future directions.

Abstract: This work summarizes the misinformation literature in the context of science and health. The public opinion work in this space reveals inconsistencies in how the term has been defined and operationalized. A diverse set of methodologies have been employed to study the phenomenon, with virtually all such work identifying misinformation as a cause for concern. While studies completely eliminating misinformation impacts on public opinion are rare, choices around the packaging and delivery of correcting information have shown promise for lessening misinformation effects. Despite a growing number of studies on the topic, there remain many gaps in the literature and opportunities for future studies.