The psychology behind accepting climate change misinformation

Lauren Lutzke Environmental misinformation

My name is Lauren Lutzke and I am a 5th year PhD candidate studying social psychology at USC. I am a part of the Judgement and Decision-Making lab, where we utilize psychology and other social sciences to study how people think about and make decisions related to the environment. This lab is run by Dr. Joe Árvai who is the Director of the Wrigley Institute. 

My own work in this lab has partly focused on issues related to climate change communication on social media, like the spread of climate misinformation or communication between politicians on Twitter. 

My research in this area began in 2017 with a study I conducted on misinformation about climate change on Facebook (e.g., posts that denied climate change was human-caused) and how to prevent its spread. When this research started, there were few proposed interventions to address the problem of fake news. Yet, buried deep in the Facebook help center were tips for spotting misinformation that Facebook users could seek out. So, I asked: If guidelines for assessing news online were more accessible or prevalent on the platform, would they even make a difference? Through an online survey experiment, I found that prompting participants to think critically by asking them to read four guidelines for spotting misinformation reduced participants’ intentions to trust, “like”, or “share” fake climate news presented in the form of a Facebook post. This work was published in 2019 in an academic journal called Global Environmental Change

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