Winners of 2020 Research Prize Have Good News for How to Fight Bad News

by | Feb 21, 2020

The 2020 Research Prize in Public Interest Communications has been awarded to two scholars from the University of Cambridge for a scientific paper that explores how people can be “inoculated” from falling victim to false information online.

The $10,000 prize for “Fake News Game Confers Psychological Resistance Against Online Misinformation was awarded to Cambridge scholars Jon Roozenbeek, Department of Slavonic Studies and Department of Psychology, and Sander van der Linden, Department of Psychology, School of Biological Sciences. The award was given Feb. 7 at the frank2020 conference in Gainesville, Florida.

For their study, the authors designed what they describe as “a psychological intervention in the form of an online browser game.” The authors write that in the game, “players take on the role of a fake news producer and learn to master six documented techniques commonly used in the production of misinformation: polarization, invoking emotions, spreading conspiracy theories, trolling people online, deflecting blame, and impersonating fake accounts.”

They add that the game “draws on an inoculation metaphor, where preemptively exposing, warning, and familiarizing people with the strategies used in the production of fake news helps confer cognitive immunity when exposed to real misinformation.”

The winning paper was one of three selected—from a pool of more than 70 entries—as finalists for this year’s prize competition. In addition to the $10,000 grand prize for peer-reviewed academic research that informs the growing discipline of public interest communications, the Center for Public Interest Communications awards $1,500 to each of the two other finalists. A review committee of scholars and practitioners selected the three papers for this year’s competition.

The two other finalist papers were:

  • Credibility-Enhancing Displays Promote the Provision of Non-Normative Public Goods—Authors: Gordon T. Kraft-Todd, Department of Psychology, Yale University; Bryan Bollinger, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; Kenneth Gillingham, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University; Stefan Lamp, Toulouse School of Economics, University of Toulouse Capitole; and David G. Rand, Sloan School and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • How Hope and Doubt Affect Climate Change Mobilization—Authors:Jennifer Marlon1, Brittany Bloodhart, Matthew T. Ballew1, Justin Rolfe-Redding3, Connie Roser-Renouf3, Anthony Leiserowitz1 and Edward Maibach3
    School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University; 2Department of Psychology, Colorado State University; and 3Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University

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