Psychological vaccines for dealing with development, climate change and biodiversity conservation

 For long I have been observing increasing amount of procataleptic usage in our arguments, writings, discussions and negotiations related to dealing with sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity conservation. It is the experts who are increasingly involved in the prebuttal!

Recently, I came across an article titled “Inoculating the public against misinformation about climate change”.

Research has now shown that misinformation about a topic can psychologically cancel out the influence of accurate statements. However, if facts and figures are delivered with an ‘inoculation’ – a warning dose of misinformation, some of the positive influence can be felt.

It is something similar to vaccination in medical terms where exposure to a weakened version of an organism enhances the tolerance levels.

According to the lead author of the article, Dr. Sander van der Linden, “Misinformation can be sticky, spreading and replicating like a virus, we wanted to see if we could find a ‘vaccine’ by pre-emptively exposing people to a small amount of the type of misinformation they might experience. A warning that helps preserve the facts”

As mentioned in the article “Psychological vaccine could immunise public against fake news on climate change”, the idea is to provide a cognitive repertoire that helps build up resistance to misinformation, so the next time people come across it they are less susceptible.

The report draws out attention to a general inoculation, consisting of a warning that “some politically-motivated groups use misleading tactics to try and convince the public that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists” and a detailed inoculation that picks apart the erroneous information where the views and opinions were presented as facts by experts when they are not.

For those ‘inoculated’ with this extra data, the misinformation that followed did not cancel out the accurate message.

In many debates, discussions and negotiations related to development, climate change and conservation, we always find opposing data and information – especially those coming from experts and scientists and those from non-experts. A big example of this is the ongoing debates on genetic modification technology.

The general public, with limited scientific and technical background are tend to be misled by the wrong information more easily – a phenomenon we are seeing in our everyday life – ranging from politics to policy.

Sometime ago, I was authoring a paper on ‘cyberchondria’ – a term used in medical jargon where public use internet based searchers to diagnose medical conditions, often believing disease conditions that neither exist nor possible and extrapolated the condition to the way we deal with actions related to environment.

With analytical tools, refined search options to have a general read about issues, today’s common man is more prone to information that is not many times authentic or scientific.

Using the ‘psychological vaccination’ method can be a way out.

Are we prepared to give and get both general inoculation and detailed inoculations against conservation, climate change and development?

Credits: Image courtesy Webster University

1 thought on “Psychological vaccines for dealing with development, climate change and biodiversity conservation”

  1. The theme of “Psychological vaccine” sounds quite powerful. Currently it still seems to be implemented as “Early Education”, or “Anticipatory Education”. But can there be a real vaccine where doses of misinformation can be injected, and allow people to react and develop their ability to react, and thereby develop this muscle. Can there be online forums for healthy, safe debate, without fear of being jammed by vested interests? Facebook, LinkedIn etc are already under attack by pests! Fledge may want to consider being such a platform, with some entry barrier, like membership being given only after background check, some submission of thought process etc.

    Has there been any good research done on Psychological vaccination in its true definition of injecting misinformation to develop muscles that can resist misinformation? Can turn out to be a Frankenstein experiment too, and potentially dangerous and counter productive.

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