Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Debunking not as effective as thought...

Very interesting article in today's Washington Post, Persistence of Myths Could Alter Public Policy Approach. It points out what some of us believed that by debunking or snoping myths and urban legends we haven't been that successful in eliminating the myths still being believed:

The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.

This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may in fact help keep it alive.

For those of us who pride ourselves on debunking myths as we come across them and trying to be as accurate as possible, this is disturbing.

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