University of Cambridge > > Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series > Psychological Inoculation Against Misinformation

Psychological Inoculation Against Misinformation

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Abstract: Much like a viral contagion, false information can spread rapidly from one mind to another. Moreover, once lodged in memory, misinformation is difficult to correct. Inoculation theory therefore offers a natural basis for developing a psychological ‘vaccine’ against the spread of fake news and misinformation. Specifically, in a series of randomized lab and field studies, we show that it is possible to pre-emptively “immunize” people against disinformation about a wide range of topics by pre-exposing them to severely weakened doses of the techniques that underlie its production. This socio-cognitive process (also known as “prebunking”) helps people cultivate cognitive antibodies in a simulated social media environment. During the talk, I’ll showcase several award-winning real-world interventions we developed and empirically evaluated in 20 languages—with governments and social media companies—to help citizens around the world recognize and resist unwanted attempts to influence and mislead.

Biography: Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., is Professor of Social Psychology in Society and Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. He has been ranked among the top 1% of social scientists in the world (by citation and impact) and has won numerous awards for his research on human judgment, communication, and decision-making, including the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Sage Early Career Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), and the Sir James Cameron Medal from the Royal College of Physicians. He co-designed the award-winning fake news game Bad News, which has been played by millions of people around the world and frequently advises governments and social media companies on how to fight misinformation. His research is regularly featured in outlets such as Nature Medicine, Nature Human Behaviour, PNAS , and Psychological Science as well as popular outlets such Rolling Stone, BBC , and the New York Times. He is currently writing two books, PREBUNKED (WW Norton/HarperCollins) and the Psychology of Misinformation (Cambridge University Press) and leads the APA ’s consensus report on the psychology of misinformation. Before joining Cambridge, he held academic positions at Princeton, Yale, and the LSE . For more information on Prof van der Linden, please visit:

The seminar will be chaired by Dr Noham Wolpe

This talk is part of the Department of Psychiatry & CPFT Thursday Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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