Once people have a misconception about the news, it can be extremely difficult to make them change their minds – even in the face of hard evidence. Studies have even shown the existence of a “backfire effect,” whereby facts can make people double-down on their false ideas. As Brendan Nyhan, professor of government at Dartmouth College and one of the researchers behind the discovery of the backfire effect, explained to Brooke in 2009, “people were so successful at bringing to mind reasons the correction was wrong that they actually ended up being more convinced than the people who didn’t receive the correction.”
After new research, however, it seems that the backfire effect might not be as strong as once thought – giving hope to anyone invested in the pursuit of a more truthful world. Brooke speaks with Nyhan again about the significance of this new finding and the role of doubt in moving science forward.