John Cook is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Monash University. His research focus is on using critical thinking to build resilience against misinformation. In 2007, he founded Skeptical Science, a website that won the 2011 Australia Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge. In 2020, he published the book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change applying critical thinking, inoculation research, and cartoons to engage and educate readers about climate misinformation. He recently released the Cranky Uncle game, combining critical thinking, cartoons, and gamification to build players’ resilience against misinformation. He currently works with organizations like Facebook and NASA to develop evidence-based responses to climate misinformation.
March 13, 2022
5:00pm EST/2:00pm PST
Combining Psychology, Critical Thinking, and Gamification to Counter Science Misinformation
A number of psychological challenges hinder the countering of misinformation and science denial. Polarization on issues such as climate change and COVID-19 result in some segments of the population being more resistant to fact-checks. Inoculation theory offers a solution to polarization, with experimental studies finding that inoculating messages neutralize the polarizing influence of misinformation on issues like climate change. Inoculation theory applies the idea of vaccination to knowledge—we build immunity to misinformation by exposing people to a weakened form of misinformation. Logic-based inoculation involves explaining the rhetorical techniques used in misinformation—in other words, boosting critical thinking. However, this approach runs into another psychological challenge—critical thinking is cognitively effortful with people more dependent on heuristics or mental shortcuts to assess information. Gamification offers a solution to this challenge. By incorporating interactive inoculating exercises into a game, players are incentivized to repeatedly practice misinformation detection tasks, thus converting effortful critical thinking tasks into quicker, easier heuristics. In this presentation, John Cook will outline how he applied psychological and critical thinking research into inoculation, using gamification and cartoons to overcome some of the psychological hurdles facing scientists and educators as they respond to misinformation.
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