Misinformation, disinformation, and violent conflict: from Iraq and the "War on Terror" to future threats to peace

Am Psychol. 2013 Oct;68(7):487-501. doi: 10.1037/a0034515.


The dissemination and control of information are indispensable ingredients of violent conflict, with all parties involved in a conflict or at war seeking to frame the discussion on their own terms. Those attempts at information control often involve the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation (i.e., information that is incorrect by accident or intent, respectively). We review the way in which misinformation can facilitate violent conflicts and, conversely, how the successful refutation of misinformation can contribute to peace. We illustrate the relevant cognitive principles by examining two case studies. The first, a retrospective case, involves the Iraq War of 2003 and the "War on Terror." The second, a prospective case, points to likely future sources of conflict arising from climate change and its likely consequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Cognition*
  • Communication*
  • Deception*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Theory
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Warfare*