Thursday, September 06, 2007

Memory and the persistence of falsehood

From the Washington Post:
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.
The article suggests that when we hear or read a denial of a statement, we tend to remember the association of the items in the statement but not the fact that the statement was a negation. Thus nonsense tends to persist in the face of refutation.


Hume's Ghost said...

I have to fix that everytime I blockquote something. Its terribly annoying, and a glitch I've only had to deal with when using my laptop.

Lippard said...

Thanks for pointing it out... it's fixed.