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Psychological inoculation can reduce susceptibility to misinformation in large rational agent networks

Pilditch, Toby, Roozenbeek, Jon, Madsen, Jens ORCID: 0000-0003-2405-8496 and van der Linden, Sander (2022) Psychological inoculation can reduce susceptibility to misinformation in large rational agent networks. Royal Society Open Science, 9 (8). ISSN 2054-5703

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Identification Number: 10.1098/rsos.211953


The unchecked spread of misinformation is recognized as an increasing threat to public, scientific and democratic health. Online networks are a contributing cause of this spread, with echo chambers and polarization indicative of the interplay between the search behaviours of users and reinforcement processes within the system they inhabit. Recent empirical work has focused on interventions aimed at inoculating people against misinformation, yielding success on the individual level. However, given the evolving, dynamic information context of online networks, important questions remain regarding how such inoculation interventions interact with network systems. Here we use an agent-based model of a social network populated with belief-updating users. We find that although equally rational agents may be assisted by inoculation interventions to reject misinformation, even among such agents, intervention efficacy is temporally sensitive. We find that as beliefs disseminate, users form self-reinforcing echo chambers, leading to belief consolidation-irrespective of their veracity. Interrupting this process requires 'front-loading' of inoculation interventions by targeting critical thresholds of network users before consolidation occurs. We further demonstrate the value of harnessing tipping point dynamics for herd immunity effects, and note that inoculation processes do not necessarily lead to increased rates of 'false-positive' rejections of truthful communications.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s).
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Geography & Environment
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2022 12:06
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024 00:33

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