Trusting Your Gut Instinct Could See You Fall for COVID Misinformation

COVID Misinformation Concept

People who think based on their first instincts are more likely to believe and share COVID-19 misinformation, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

The study compared intuitive thinkers, those who tend to make decisions on immediate instinct, with reflective thinkers, those who stop and reflect on the accuracy of information presented to them.

As part of the study, 742 Australians were shown a mix of five already-debunked COVID-19 claims and five accurate statements from public health authorities. The participants were then asked to complete a short test of their thinking style.

Lead author, ANU PhD researcher Matthew Nurse, said Australians who provided intuitive yet false answers on the thinking style test were significantly worse at discerning between the accurate statements and the misinformation.

“Viral misinformation about COVID-19 has spread just like the virus itself,” Mr. Nurse said.

“Knowing that a reliance on intuition might be at least partly responsible for the spread of COVID-19 misinformation gives science communicators important clues about how to respond to this challenge.

“For example, simply reminding people to take their time and think through dodgy claims could help people reject misinformation and hopefully prevent them from following ineffective or dangerous advice.

“Encouraging people to think twice before sharing might slow down the spread of false claims too.”

The research has been published in the journal Memory and Cognition and aligns with similar research conducted in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Reference: “Analytic thinking predicts accuracy ratings and willingness to share COVID-19 misinformation in Australia” by Matthew S. Nurse, Robert M. Ross, Ozan Isler and Dirk Van Rooy, 27 August 2021, Memory and Cognition.
DOI: 10.3758/s13421-021-01219-5


View Comments

  • People being fooled is not new. There have always been 'bridge salesmen.' To quote P. T. Barnum, "There is a sucker born every minute." People should adopt an attitude of skepticism towards any claim that might cost them money or risk their health. They should then gather facts and consider them, particularly looking for self-contradicting claims or claims that seem to be too good to be true.

  • You must always be careful about what constitutes false claims. For example- The statement "you are more likely to die if you don't accept a Covid Vaccine?". That's a very big statement and I hear it in the media every day. What I don't hear from my local Australian media is that the MNRA treatment is not actually classed as a Vaccine. I believe (from what I have researched) is that it's it's classed as a gene therapy or manipulation of a persons genes to create a response against Covid and a highly experimental one at that. I wouldn't be so quick to believe public health authorities personally to be completely accurate. Especially when they refer to MNRA treatments as being a vaccine to help sell their message, when in reality it is gene therapy.

Australian National University

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