The Continued Influence of Misinformation : Misinformation Motivations and Alternative Causal Explanations
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In rolling news, information is commonly presented as true but later corrected as the news source is updated. Studies show that these updates are ineffective and individuals continue to show a reliance on the initial (misinformation) (e.g., Johnson & Seifert, 1994). This effect is also known as the continued influence effect. My study sought to reduce the continued influence effect by providing a motivation for the misinformation and presenting an alternative cause in the retraction using an adaptation of the Johnson and Seifert (1994) home robbery paradigm. I predicted that providing a causal alternative would enable an understanding of what did happen, instead of engendering a sense of uncertainty (as when negating an explanation). A causal alternative further provides participants with concrete information for inferential reasoning that does not depend on the misinformation (e.g., an alternative suspect with their motive and opportunity for having committed the crime). Though the continued influence effect was observed in all conditions, results showed a decreased reliance on misinformation when participants were provided an alternative cause compared to a simple negation. Motivation for the misinformation was predicted to decrease the continued influence effect by eliciting suspicion. Participants were either told the misinformation was due to malicious intent or through a mistake. Conditions had no effect on the continued influence effect. Suspicion messages may have been resisted because they contradicted accepted misinformation.