I Don’t Want to Be Right (The New Yorker)


In a story about attempts to correct false beliefs, The New Yorker features the work of Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government. Last month, Nyhan and fellow researchers published the results of a three-year study about whether information could change the minds of people opposed to vaccinating children.

The researchers gave a group of nearly 2,000 parents a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating there was no link between autism and M.M.R., the vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella, as well as information on the diseases prevented by M.M.R., writes The New Yorker. The goal was to see whether the facts could change people’s minds about the vaccine.

“The result,” writes the magazine, “was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing.” In fact, the belief in a link between vaccines and autism only increased among some of the parents. “It was depressing,” Nyhan tells The New Yorker.

However, the results inspired Nyhan and his fellow researchers to take another approach. “It’s the realization that persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self that prompted Nyhan and his colleagues to look at less traditional methods of rectifying misinformation,” the magazine writes. “Rather than correcting or augmenting facts, they decided to target people’s beliefs about themselves.”

Read the full story, published 5/19/14 by The New Yorker.

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