Newswise — EVANSTON, IL – Donald Trump has expressed “regret for sometimes saying the wrong thing.” But what is the larger effect of his initial comments?
Northwestern University psychology professor David Rapp is available to discuss why our brains rely on false information and misleading statements to make decisions even when we know better.
Rapp is the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and a professor in the learning sciences program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy and in the department of psychology at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
David Rapp can be reached at [email protected]
In a recent review, published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, Rapp outlines three ways to avoid falling into the misinformation trap:
Critically evaluate information right away. That helps prevent your brain from storing the wrong information. “You want to avoid encoding those potentially problematic memories,” Rapp said.
Consider the source. People are more likely to use inaccurate information from a credible source than from an unreliable source, according to Rapp’s previous research. “At this point, it’s even clear to Donald Trump’s proponents that he says a lot of nonsense,” Rapp said. “But his strong supporters who want him to be right will do less work to evaluate his statements.”
Beware of truthy falsehoods. “When the truth is mixed with inaccurate statements, people are persuaded, fooled and less evaluative, which prevents them from noticing and rejecting the inaccurate ideas,” Rapp said.
For example, Trump initially said he saw the video of money changing hands for kidnapped individuals in Iran; he later retracted it. At the same time, news outlets reported there actually was a video.
“Trump just says things but once you can get them encoded into people’s memories, they believe it, use it or rely on it,” Rapp said. “Disentangling truth from falsehoods when they are mixed up from different sources makes the challenge even more difficult.”