VU Psychologists Advise on How to Deal With Disinformation

VU Psychologists Advise on How to Deal With Disinformation

Sukurta: 08 March 2022

50887206518 92c943bc43 kConfusion is currently prevailing in society, making it more vulnerable and more likely to succumb to disinformation. Psychologists from Vilnius University (VU) urge people not to give in to the emotions which may overwhelm after reading scandalous headlines, but to delve deeper into the content of the message, check the sources and not engage in unnecessary disputes.

Researchers advise that if you are faced with a shocking message but, at the same time, you are not sure whether the message is real:

1. Do not react instinctively

Usually, misinformation seeks to arouse our emotions. And when emotions flow, we often make improper decisions. Take a step back from the message, video, or comment for at least a few minutes and only respond (share, comment, etc.) if it still seems meaningful when you return to it.

2. Delve deeper into the content

Often we only read the headlines. The creators of fake news understand this, and they want us to read just a few words and react. So let's read the whole text or listen to the whole video – this will make it easier to understand which messages are fake. And it is also important to look for other sources – fake news and disinformation are often spread over questionable accounts (like a stranger’s account that was created a month ago and has only a few friends) or emotionally responsive friends. We should check if reliable media sources are talking about that. It is better to react to each news with a little skepticism and believe that it is really true only after finding several reliable sources.

3. Do not provoke conflict unnecessarily

We all have the right to express our opinion and our civic position. And this must be done! However, let us remember that the goal of those who spread lies is not necessarily to convince others as they often seek to incite hostility, conflict, and cause various emotions. Therefore, before you get involved into disputes and discussions, think about the effect that might have.

If you want to develop long-term resistance to fake news and disinformation, VU psychologists propose:

1. To get acquainted with expert advice on how to identify fake news

Then there will be less chance to "get hooked". There are simple ways to figure out which post might be fake – just check who the author is, what his or her intentions are, where the message has already been posted, and if there have been any messages with similar content before.

2. Take an interest in politics

If you have prior knowledge, it will be much easier for you to notice that the information is unlikely to be true. Choose reliable sources, do not rely only on social networks and discussions in their groups.

3. Understand how social networks work

Currently, most disinformation is "floating" on social networks. Find out how social networking algorithms, groups work, and what are the dangers that lurk there. In addition, social networks have trolls (people who deliberately spread disinformation), bots (automated programs that stream disinformation) and it is worthwhile investigating them. Also, help acquaintances or relatives (especially the elderly) who have less skills and knowledge to understand how to navigate the "labyrinths" of social networks.

4. Do not spend a lot of time browsing aimlessly

When we experience a threat, we feel anxious. And when we are anxious, we grab a telephone or other device and very often browse social networks where we may come across fake news. The more time we spend using the internet for no purpose, the more trust in fake news, especially political content, increases. Let’s stop and think about whether pointless browsing is really the best way to deal with anxiety.

5. Emotion management should come first

At the moment, we all feel different emotions when we hear about military factors. The stronger our emotions, i.e. the more we worry, the more anger, sadness we feel, the harder it is for us to understand our emotions, the greater our trust in the fake news. Let’s take the time to control our emotions, for example, you can visit the page.

If you engage in discussions with a loved one who believed the fake news:

1. Respect the other person

We may disagree with another and express our position constructively. Sticking labels on those who think differently, bullying or contempt will definitely have the opposite effect. Even if the other person has clearly believed the fake news, only by acting tactfully will we achieve some result.

2. Take control of your emotions

The discussion is likely to get heated. Even if the other person says things that are "boiling your blood", the best tactic is to remain confident and calm. Accusations, anger, and emotions will not change opinions. Only a slow and calm conversation might change that.

3. Talk to the person individually, avoid group discussions. A person always feels safer, calmer when there is no pressure from the group. It benefits both sides.

4. Do not expect a quick effect

If a loved one believes in disinformation and conspiracy theories, they will not be able to change their minds quickly, it will take more than one conversation. This information is probably deeply embedded in his or her memory and is related to self-perception. In addition, another person may gather completely different information on social networks and media. Beliefs change slowly, so speak patiently, ask questions, help choose sources of information, but do not force your opinion, if possible, start the discussions with topics you both agree on.

The recommendations were prepared within the framework of the project “Elderly Trust in Fake News: Factors and Consequences”, funded by the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT), contract No. S-MIP-20-11/(1.78) SU-528.

Project Manager Vilmantė Pakalniškienė. Executors: Antanas Kairys, Vytautas Jurkuvėnas, Vita Mikuličiūtė and Viktorija Ivleva.

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