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WIREs Cogn Sci
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The effects of repeating false and misleading information on belief

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Abstract False and misleading information is readily accessible in people's environments, oftentimes reaching people repeatedly. This repeated exposure can significantly affect people's beliefs about the world, as has been noted by scholars in political science, communication, and cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. In particular, repetition increases belief in false information, even when the misinformation contradicts prior knowledge. We review work across these disciplines, identifying factors that may heighten, diminish, or have no impact on these adverse effects of repetition on belief. Specifically, we organize our discussion around variations in what information is repeated, to whom the information is repeated, how people interact with this repetition, and how people's beliefs are measured. A key cross‐disciplinary theme is that the most influential factor is how carefully or critically people process the false information. However, several open questions remain when comparing findings across different fields and approaches. We conclude by noting a need for more interdisciplinary work to help resolve these questions, as well as a need for more work in naturalistic settings so that we can better understand and combat the effects of repeated circulation of false and misleading information in society. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Memory Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making
An adapted version of Jenkins' (1979) Theorist's Tetrahedron. Each vertex represents a group of variables. Each edge represents a two‐way interaction and each plane a three‐way interaction. The entire tetrahedron represents a four‐way interaction of all the variables. Note that locations on the pyramid are arbitrary and do not reflect any hierarchy
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Factors that have been shown to influence how repetition affects belief. Factors that have been shown to heighten the effects of repetition on belief in information are listed above, and factors that have been shown to reduce these effects are listed below the time course of repeated exposure. Factors for which there is no evidence of impact are in the oval at the bottom
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Mean belief ratings as a function of the number of prior repetitions. The rating scale ranged from 1 = not at all believable to 9 = completely believable. Figure adapted from DiFonzo et al. (2016) Experiment 3
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Mean truth ratings for new and repeated statements with and without warnings that some of the initially encoded information was going to be false. The scale ranged from 1 = definitely false to 6 = definitely true. Figure adapted from (Jalbert et al., 2020) Experiment 1
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Mean truth ratings for falsehoods by older adults as a function of repetition and demonstrated knowledge on the knowledge check. The scale ranged from 1 = definitely false to 6 = definitely true. Figure adapted from Brashier et al. (2017) Experiment 1
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Proportion of new and repeated statements rated “true” by age group. Error bars reflect standard errors. Figure adapted from Fazio and Sherry (2020)
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Mean truth ratings for falsehoods as a function of repetition and demonstrated knowledge on the knowledge check. The scale ranged from 1 = definitely false to 6 = definitely true. Error bars reflect standard errors. Figure adapted from Fazio (2020b)
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Mean agreement with new and repeated, weak and strong arguments that were highly personally relevant. The rating scale ranged from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree. Figure adapted from Moons et al. (2009) Experiment 1
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Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making
Psychology > Memory

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