To counter the misinformation of COVID-19, the expert supports a new approach to the study of science

The assessment of not competing claims, but evidence of these claims is one of the ways in which we can navigate the mountain of information that besieges us daily. Credit: Illustration / iStock

In the early days of the spread of the new coronavirus across the United States, misinformation spread with it.

From presidential press conferences to every corner of social networks, COVID-19 misinformation has spread. As a result, government experts such as Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had to provide clarifications and corrections.

“With the rapid spread of misinformation, it's hard to keep up,” said Gale Sinatra, a professor of education at Rossira School of Education.

Although the media and scientific literacy The process of teaching people how to diagnose disinformation can go a long way, and Sinatra analyzes what is needed to improve students' assessment of evidence and allegations. Sinatra and other experts say we are in a “post-truth era” in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals for emotions and personal faith.

To counter this, Sinatra and other experts are developing methods to change how science is taught in schools. One of the tools they are trying to pick up is simple but powerful: believability judgments.

How plausible judgment can counter COVID-19 misinformation

While various types of judgments – such as source veracity, veracity, veracity and veracity – are related to believability judgments, believability is different: it requires a person to look at the evidence and see which set of competing statements has the best support. Imagine, for example, how a jury evaluates prosecution cases against a defense charge.

“People should judge the plausibility of statements such as“ we can develop a vaccine in a few weeks, ”or that you can take vitamin C as a preventative measure or, worse, gargle with bleach,” Sinatra said. and ask if it’s safe to use bleach, and you will overestimate it very quickly. ”

In a new article for Teacher Psychologist magazine, Sinatra and co-author Doug Lombardi, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, argue that such plausibility judgments can have many uses.

These experts hope to increase the usefulness of plausibility judgments through a textbook that helps students not only evaluate competing claims, but also foundational evidence for these claims. The system, known as Model-Evidence Link, has been shown to be successful in deepening students' scientific knowledge in early trials in middle and high school science.

The similarity between COVID-19 and climate change

Initially, Sinatra and Lombardi found this method particularly useful for combating disinformation around climate change. United Nations considers climate change a serious threat human rightsbut many disinformation tried to undermine the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change is a problem.

And although this is still the goal, Sinatra also sees a number of parallels between public understanding changing of the climate and public understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On both issues, too many people trust their circles on social networks or politicians rather than experts,” Sinatra said, pointing out how some politicians offer dates by which most businesses will reopen.

“Hopefully this will end sooner rather than later, but it's not scientifically sound to pick a date,” she said. "As Dr. Fauci suggested, the virus will determine the passage of time."

Online disinformation about COVID-19 can take many forms

Additional Information:
Gail M. Sinatra et al. An assessment of the sources of scientific evidence and claims in the post-truth era may require a reassessment of plausible judgments, Psychologist (2020). DOI: 10.1080 / 00461520.2020.1730181

To counter the misinformation of COVID-19, the expert supports a new approach to the study of science (April 2, 2020)
retrieved April 3, 2020

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