Psychological inoculation improves resilience against misinformation on social media

Sci Adv. 2022 Aug 26;8(34):eabo6254. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abo6254. Epub 2022 Aug 24.


Online misinformation continues to have adverse consequences for society. Inoculation theory has been put forward as a way to reduce susceptibility to misinformation by informing people about how they might be misinformed, but its scalability has been elusive both at a theoretical level and a practical level. We developed five short videos that inoculate people against manipulation techniques commonly used in misinformation: emotionally manipulative language, incoherence, false dichotomies, scapegoating, and ad hominem attacks. In seven preregistered studies, i.e., six randomized controlled studies (n = 6464) and an ecologically valid field study on YouTube (n = 22,632), we find that these videos improve manipulation technique recognition, boost confidence in spotting these techniques, increase people's ability to discern trustworthy from untrustworthy content, and improve the quality of their sharing decisions. These effects are robust across the political spectrum and a wide variety of covariates. We show that psychological inoculation campaigns on social media are effective at improving misinformation resilience at scale.