New research has revealed the trait shared by the people who are most likely to believe false information about Covid-19.
New research has revealed which Australians are most likely to believe and share misinformation about Covid-19.
People who rely on their first instincts to make judgments are more likely to believe and share misinformation about the virus, according to a new study by the Australian National University (ANU).
“Participants with higher analytic thinking levels were less likely to perceive misinformation about Covid-19 to be accurate,” researchers concluded.
The study analysed 742 Australians and compared intuitive thinkers – those who make decisions on immediate instinct, with reflective thinkers – those who are more likely to pause and reflect on the accuracy of information shown to them.
Lead author of the study, ANU PhD researcher Matthew Nurse, said people who were shown to rely more on their first gut instinct in the study’s thinking style test were significantly worse at discerning between accurate statements and misinformation.
“Encouraging people to think twice before sharing might slow down the spread of false claims,” Mr Nurse said.
“Simply reminding people to take their time and think through dodgy claims could help people reject misinformation and hopefully prevent them from following ineffective or dangerous advice.”
Mr Nurse lamented Covid-19 misinformation was a dangerous and widespread problem.
“Viral misinformation about Covid-19 has spread just like the virus itself,” he said.
Shockingly, almost half of the study’s participants believed at least one of the pieces of misinformation presented to them by the researchers.
Of those who believed the misinformation, 43.9 per cent reported they were willing to share the false claims.
A number of prominent theories and conspiracies about Covid-19 exist in Australia that have been widely debunked by scientists.
These include claims that face masks don’t work, that vaccines kill children, and even that Covid-19 was purposefully planted by the government to control the population.
Nationals politician George Christensen was publicly condemned by the prime minister earlier this month after he claimed “masks don’t work and lockdowns don’t work” on the floor of parliament, demanding an end to “the madness” of Covid-19.
“Crazy, rubbish conspiracies have no place when it comes to the public health of this country and this government will have no association with it as we demonstrated yesterday in this House,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in response.
Mr Nurse said he hoped his study would help researchers find better ways to combat the spread of misinformation in the community.
“Knowing that a reliance on intuition might be at least partly responsible for the spread of Covid-19 misinformation gives science communicators important clues about how to respond to this challenge,” he said.