BAPS Best Master's Thesis Award
Combatting climate change misinformation: Longevity of inoculation and consensus messaging effects
Rakoen Maertens (1,2), Frederik Anseel (2,3) and Sander van der Linden (1)
(1) University of Cambridge, UK; (2) UGent; (3) University of New South Wales, AUS
Previous studies have found that communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is an effective method to debias beliefs, but that this effect can be thwarted by misinformation. In this preregistered study we explore whether inoculation theory can be used to create cognitive immunity against this misinformation. We investigate whether the positive changes caused by communicating the scientific consensus can be protected from the influence of misinformation, and whether the inoculation effect decays over time. We conducted a new longitudinal experiment (N = 480; Prolific) where we presented a consensus message with an inoculation message, and a misinformation message one week later. Using SEM (Gateway Belief Model), ANCOVA, and difference-in-differences analyses we found a strong initial consensus effect that decays over time and is sensitive to misinformation. We also found that the consensus effect can be successfully protected against misinformation using inoculation, and that the inoculation effect remains stable over time. We discuss how these insights can help to improve inoculation theory development, applied interventions and public policy.