Games as a vaccine against fake news

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A specially designed online game teaches you how to recognize and reject fake news. In the game, participants test the role of the sender of misinformation, and research shows that this is an effective method of increasing awareness of fake news.

This phenomenon has its origins in a psychological theory called inoculation; a term that originally comes from the medical sciences and means that you put something under your skin as an inoculation. In this case, players are presented with small, simplified doses of confusing arguments. This has led to an understanding of the processes underlying false and misleading information.

“In general, there is no shortage of good ideas for responding to false information, but this is one of the few initiatives that has good evidence that it works,” says Thomas, a senior lecturer in the Department of pedagogy, didactics and Educational Studies University.

They were ordered to spread false information and gather followers, without sacrificing much of their credibility. Players learned various forms of disinformation, including conspiracy, discrediting and witchcraft-creating chaos on the internet.

To see if the game could achieve its intended effect, participants had to rate a series of Twitter posts both before and after the study-a mix of real and fake news.

The results showed that the players were much better able to distinguish between fake messages after playing, and confidence in real messages remained.

– There was a risk that this would have the opposite effect, that people would eventually not trust all the information. Therefore, it was important that the method did not result in general skepticism-says Thomas Nygren.

The game can be used for educational purposes

The result had the same positive effect, regardless of participants ‘ age, political preferences and level of education. The study was also successful in crossing cultural boundaries – The study is distinguished by the fact that it covers a number of nationalities and contexts. It turned out that it had a good effect and meaning anyway-says Thomas Nygren.

In the future, vaccination theory and its inoculating effect may be of great importance in the fight against misleading information. Thomas Nygren hopes that it will be able to be used in educational activities and support existing applications, such as the messaging service Whats app – It’s about teaching the ability to identify manipulative strategies. Society is flooded with false information, and this is an important piece of the puzzle to counteract negative developments.


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