When Facts Lie: The Impact of Misleading Numbers in Climate Change News
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This study examines how numerical misinformation in the news can lead to a bias in readers’ own judgment on climate change issues after a retraction. Building on theories of the continued influence effect and anchoring, the experimental research investigates the link between inaccurate facts, biased estimations, and the evaluation of climate change policies and risks. The results indicate that presenting participants with a low number on the carbon footprint of commuting traffic induces a bias into their own estimated values. This effect appears regardless of the participants’ level of issue involvement. However, the study finds no subsequent effect of this bias on participants’ policy support or perceived threat of climate change. The results are discussed in light of anchoring and misinformation theories. The paper proposes media literacy as a fruitful avenue to a more accurate understanding of climate change in view of a factually flawed representation of climate change in the news.
KeywordsClimate change Misinformation Continued influence effect Anchoring
Thank you to the professors Martin Schönhart, Monika Kobzina, and Ika Darnhofer from the University of Life Sciences, Vienna, who helped distribute the survey and, of course, to the students who took the time to participate.
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