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Psychological inoculation protects against the social media infodemic

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number5780
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>8/04/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Scientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Misinformation can have a profound detrimental impact on populations’ wellbeing. In this large UK-based online experiment (n = 2430), we assessed the performance of false tag and inoculation interventions in protecting against different forms of misinformation (‘variants’). While previous experiments have used perception- or intention-based outcome measures, we presented participants with real-life misinformation posts in a social media platform simulation and measured their engagement, a more ecologically valid approach. Our pre-registered mixed-effects models indicated that both interventions reduced engagement with misinformation, but inoculation was most effective. However, random differences analysis revealed that the protection conferred by inoculation differed across posts. Moderation analysis indicated that immunity provided by inoculation is robust to variation in individuals’ cognitive reflection. This study provides novel evidence on the general effectiveness of inoculation interventions over false tags, social media platforms’ current approach. Given inoculation’s effect heterogeneity, a concert of interventions will likely be required for future safeguarding efforts.