How Shades of Truth and Age Affect Responses to COVID-19 (Mis)information: Randomized Survey Experiment among WhatsApp Users in UK and Brazil

Santosh Vijaykumar*, Yan Jin, Daniel Rogerson, Xuerong Lu, Swati Sharma, Anna Maughan, Bianca Fadel, Mariella Silva de Oliveira Costa, Claudia Pagliari, Daniel Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We examined how age and exposure to different types of COVID-19 (mis)information affect misinformation beliefs, perceived credibility of the message and intention-to-share it on WhatsApp. Through two mixed-design online experiments in the UK and Brazil (total N = 1454) we first randomly exposed adult WhatsApp users to full misinformation, partial misinformation, or full truth about the therapeutic powers of garlic to cure COVID-19. We then exposed all participants to corrective information from the World Health Organisation debunking this claim. We found stronger misinformation beliefs among younger adults (18–54) in both the UK and Brazil and possible backfire effects of corrective information among older adults (55+) in the UK. Corrective information from the WHO was effective in enhancing perceived credibility and intention-to-share of accurate information across all groups in both countries. Our findings call for evidence-based infodemic interventions by health agencies, with greater engagement of younger adults in pandemic misinformation management efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberHSSCOMMS-03839R1
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume8
Issue number88
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2021

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