Michael A. Cacciatore (2023, March). “Depictions of Science in Media & Resulting Opinion Formation,” Invited presentation to the American Physical Society Forum on Outreach and Engaging the Public (Session Focus: Misinformation) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Abstract: This presentation will provide an overview of science communication through the lens of misinformation. I will explore some of the reasons why misinformation has risen as a concern for science communicators, as well as what can (and cannot) be done to overcome it. Special attention will be paid to mediated depictions of science and what we know about how audiences process such information when forming opinions, including how this knowledge can shape the strategies we use to engage audiences and combat misinformation.
Itai Himelboim (December, 2021). Covid-19 Misinformation Spread on Social Media: What, Who and to What Extent? Presented at the Bucharest Security Conference Dialogues (via teleconference). Bucharest, Romania.
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/
Abstract: This study examined how individuals’ emotional and cognitive responses to different shades of truth embedded in health crisis (mis)information (i.e., full falsity vs. partial falsity vs. full truth) might predict their information vetting and sharing intentions on social media. In the context of COVID-19 and based on an online survey of 725 UK WhatsApp users, the key findings of our study include: 1) Various shades of truth in provided COVID-19 information directly triggered participants’ sense of hope and influenced their intentions to vet and share the (mis)information they read; 2) Hope, confusion, and misinformation belief functioned as affective and cognitive predictors for whether and how individuals intended to share the (mis)information with immediate family members and strangers in their social networks. Multi-group mediation models further revealed the critical role hope played in evoking other emotions (i.e., confusion and anxiety) and forming misinformation belief, which in turn, led to varied (mis)information vetting and sharing behavioral intentions.
Santosh Vijaykumar, Daniel Rogerson, Yan Jin, and Mariella Silva de Oliveira Costa. (forthcoming). “Dynamics of Feedback Behaviours to Social Peers Sharing COVID-19 Misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil.”
Abstract: Online COVID-19 misinformation is a serious concern in Brazil, home to the second largest WhatsApp user base and the second highest number of COVID-19 deaths. We examined the extent to which WhatsApp users themselves might be willing to correct their peers who might share COVID-19 misinformation. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey using Qualtrics among 726 Brazilian adults to identify types of peer feedback behaviours and health and technological factors that shape the performance of these behaviours. We discovered three ways in which feedback may or may not be delivered to social peers: active feedback to the group, active feedback to the sender only (private), and passive or no feedback. Our study found that those with lower levels of educational attainment and from younger age groups were less inclined to actively provide feedback. Lastly, we found that perceived severity of COVID-19 and the ability to critically evaluate a message were positively associated with providing feedback to either the group or privately the sender. The demographic analysis points to the need to strengthen information literacy among population groups that are younger with lower levels of educational attainment. These efforts could facilitate micro or individual-level contributions to the global fight against the infodemic led by the World Health Organisation in collaboration with member states, social media companies and civil society. Our study suggests that Brazil’s WhatsApp users might be willing to actively respond with feedback when exposed to COVID-19 misinformation by their peers on small world networks like WhatsApp groups.
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.
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).
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.
Abstract: This presentation is a broad overview of the issue of misinformation as it relates to public understanding of science and the communication of scientific information with public audiences. The presentation is based on a paper I am currently producing for the National Academy of Sciences on the same topic. Link to Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQZGLe5xl6g
Abstract: This study aims to identify the nature of, and find potential solutions to the kinds of vulnerabilities that misinformation imposes on older adults during infectious disease outbreaks with a demographic that is shown to be especially vulnerable to this problem. Situated in Bangalore, India, the study will comprise of two phases: formative research that will use automated social media analytics of news coverage to identify key themes of misinformation that spread during previous infectious disease outbreaks in India, and a factorial survey experiment to test how older adults and their children respond to different levels of misinformation presented in different information formats.