Lateral reading and monetary incentives to spot disinformation about science

Disinformation about science can impose enormous economic and public health burdens. A recently proposed strategy to help online users recognise false content is to follow the techniques of professional fact checkers, such as looking for information on other websites (lateral reading) and looking beyond the first results suggested by search engines (click restraint). In two preregistered online experiments (N = 5387), we simulated a social media environment and tested two interventions, one in the form of a pop-up meant to advise participants to follow such techniques, the other based on monetary incentives. We measured participants’ ability to identify whether information was scientifically valid or invalid. Analysis of participants’ search style reveals that both monetary incentives and pop-up increased the use of fact-checking strategies. Monetary incentives were overall effective in increasing accuracy, whereas the pop-up worked when the source of information was unknown. Pop-up and incentives, when used together, produced a cumulative effect on accuracy. We suggest that monetary incentives enhance content relevance, and could be combined with fact-checking techniques to counteract disinformation

Folco Panizza, Piero Ronzani, Carlo Martini, Simone Mattavelli, Tiffany Morisseau, Matteo Motterlini


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