Beware: debunking research myths can backfire on you

Watch out, warns Christian Bokhove – challenging misconceptions about research could blow up in your face by reinforcing the very views you’re trying to correct

How debunking research can backfire

I don’t always find it easy deciding whether to correct misconceptions about research that I hear in person or see on social media. One of the reasons for this is a phenomenon called “the backfire effect”.

The backfire effect was originally proposed by Nyhan and Reifler in 2010, based on their research among conservatives. Other studies then confirmed the hypothesis. The idea is that, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger.

This could potentially be very frustrating for those who are attempting to debunk myths. After all, if it’s ...

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