Debunking: A Meta-Analysis of the Psychological Efficacy of Messages Countering Misinformation

Psychol Sci. 2017 Nov;28(11):1531-1546. doi: 10.1177/0956797617714579. Epub 2017 Sep 12.


This meta-analysis investigated the factors underlying effective messages to counter attitudes and beliefs based on misinformation. Because misinformation can lead to poor decisions about consequential matters and is persistent and difficult to correct, debunking it is an important scientific and public-policy goal. This meta-analysis ( k = 52, N = 6,878) revealed large effects for presenting misinformation ( ds = 2.41-3.08), debunking ( ds = 1.14-1.33), and the persistence of misinformation in the face of debunking ( ds = 0.75-1.06). Persistence was stronger and the debunking effect was weaker when audiences generated reasons in support of the initial misinformation. A detailed debunking message correlated positively with the debunking effect. Surprisingly, however, a detailed debunking message also correlated positively with the misinformation-persistence effect.

Keywords: belief persistence/perseverance; continued influence; correction; misinformation; open data; science communication.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Communication*
  • Humans
  • Thinking*