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Misinformation and the War on Terror.ppt

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					  Misinformation and the
      'War on Terror’
When Memory Turns Fiction into Fact


     Stephan Lewandowsky




            lewan@psy.uwa.edu.au
     For slides: http://www.cogsciwa.com
   Cognitive Scientist’s View
 A How Do People Process
        Information?
      on Globalisation

Focus on information relating to
 ‗War on Terror‘

False memories for ―real‖ events.
Memory and judgment.
Updating and correcting memory.
              Remember?

―Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam
 Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.‖
                 - U.S. Vice-President Cheney, 2002


―We know that [Saddam‘s] Iraq and al Qaeda have
 had high-level contacts that go back a decade ….
 We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda
 members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly
 gases.‖
                               - George Bush, 2002
   WMD’s? False Memories
   And The Invasion Of Iraq
WMD‘s …. not   12 April 2003: Suspected chemical warhead
WMD‘s …. not   found in Kirkuk
                Weapons experts were called Saturday to an
WMD‘s …. not   occupied northern Iraqi air base in Kirkuk to
                determine if a warhead discovered there is laden
WMD‘s …. not   with a chemical agent.
                13 April 2003: Prelim nerve warhead test
                negative
WMDs! ?        A second set of preliminary chemical tests
                conducted Saturday on a warhead discovered at an
                occupied northern Iraqi airbase in Kirkuk found no
                trace of chemical weaponry..
            WMD’s!
 (Kull, Ramsay, & Lewis, 2003)
Repeated polling in the U.S. by Program
 on International Policy Attitudes [PIPA].
Nearly 9,000 respondents.
January – September 2003.
Critical question:
 ―Do you believe clear evidence of
 WMD’s has been found in Iraq or not?‖
                               Memory And Belief For
                               WMD’s in U.S. in 2003
                         100
                          90
Percent of respondents




                          80                                        Yes
                          70                                        No
                          60
                          50
                          40
                          30
                          20
                          10
                           0
                                Mar-03   Jun-03   Jul-03   Aug-03
Memory And Belief For
WMD’s in U.S. in 2004




                 By 2006:
               Reduced to 23%
Lewandowsky et al. (2005):
 International Comparison
At any time since the beginning of the war, have the allied
(Coalition) forces discovered weapons of mass destruction
(i.e., chemical or biological agents) in Iraq?

           0      1      2        3         4
   definitely not      unsure         definitely yes


    Australia         Germany              U.S.
       .97              .50                1.68
                68% 21 6 3 2             30% 22 14 19 16
     WMD’s Live On …
(May 2007, Unpublished Data)
  At any time since the beginning of the war, have the allied
  (Coalition) forces discovered weapons of mass destruction
  (i.e., chemical or biological agents) in Iraq?

             0      1      2       3         4
     definitely not      unsure        definitely yes


U.S. (N = 305): 2.31 (2.17-2.45)
Australia (N = 150): 1.94 (1.72-2.16)
       Conclusion I:
    Memory Can Be Fallible

False memories are readily created for events
 that never happened but are hinted at.
Memory is not a tape recorder.
But not everybody is susceptible to false
 memories and not everything will be
 misremembered.
                            More on that later
   How Do We Judge Risks?
     Based On Heuristics
―Rules of thumb‖ that enable us to make
 judgments based on incomplete data.
Intuitive and efficient, but subject to biases.
 When judging risks…
…people judge ease of recalling instances.

                                  Availability
                                   heuristic
  Consequences Of Availability
                       But the media report
                       accidents, not strokes




What is the more likely cause of death? Any
 accident or stroke?
Stroke twice as likely as all accidents together
 Consequences Of Availability

What is the more likely cause of death:
  A  terrorist attack or
   an asteroid or comet impact?


About the same (1 in 80,000 lifetime
 risk).
    Other Consequences Of
          Availability
Iraqi Civilian Fatalities (PIPA Survey of
 U.S. residents, August 2004).
                                                       March ’06:
                                                      Survey: 5000
                              12000
                                                     Actual: 650,000+
       Number of Fatalities




                              10000
                               8000
                               6000                  Actual
                                                     Survey
                               4000
                               2000
                                  0
                                      U.S.   Iraqi
     Misperceptions Can Kill

Far more extra people died needlessly in
 traffic accidents in the U.S. post September
 11 because they avoided flying …
…. than died on the 4 hijacked planes
 (Gigerenzer, 2004; Sivak & Flannagan,
 2004).
Misperceptions Kill




           Somewhere
           between 353 and
           1018 extra deaths
                     The U.S. Majority That
                      Thinks It’s A Minority
                 (Todorov & Mondisodza, 2004)
                 Which statement comes closest to your
“Unilateral”




                  opinion?
                    As  the sole … superpower, the U.S. should …
                     be the preeminent world leader.
                    The U.S. should do its fair share … with other
“Multilateral”




                     countries.
    The U.S. Majority That
     Thinks It’s A Minority
(Todorov & Mondisodza, 2004)
                 80        The majority of U.S. respondents
                 70        favoured (in February 2003) a
                 60        multilateral approach to foreign policy
 Percentage of
 Respondents




                 50        over a unilateral approach by a
                           margin > 3:1             Unilateral
                 40
                                                   Multilateral
                 30
                 20        No change since 1996
                 10
                  0        Holds across a number of questions and
                      1996 numerous opinion polls
                            2000 2002 2003
      The U.S. Majority That
       Thinks It’s A Minority
When asked to estimate the opinion of the
 population at large, the majority felt in the
 minority (and vice versa).
        Actual opinion Estimated opinion

    Unilateral   16%       54%
                                     Why?
  Multilateral   71%       49%
      When Are Opinions
        Misperceived?
    (Shamir & Shamir, 1997)
Correlated with prominence of an issue or
 an opinion in the media.
Information that is more accessible raises
 people‘s estimates of the preponderance of
 those opinions.
―Unilateral‖ opinions have received much
 prominence in the U.S. media during the
 last few years.
       Conclusion II:
Judgments Distorted By Memory
People judge risks on the basis of how
 readily they can retrieve relevant instances.
In consequence, events or risks that are
 over-reported in the media tend to be over-
 estimated.
People may misjudge public opinion in
 addition to risks.
      Can People Do Better?

We have examined the ―side-effects‖ of
 information processing.
People may over-interpret, jump to
 conclusions, see their biases confirmed, inflate
 judgments.…
But what if people are explicitly told to
 disregard things?
 Discounting Specific Events:
 “The Jury Will Disregard…”

Fein, McCloskey, & Tomlinson (1997)
   (Mock)   jurors do not disregard inadmissible
    testimony …
   …unless they are made suspicious about
    motives underlying the introduction of the
    (mis-) information.
   Suspicion  people entertain multiple rival
    hypotheses
Discounting Misinformation
 And The Invasion Of Iraq
          27 March 2003: Tony
           Blair claims that allied
           POW‘s were ―executed‖
           after surrendering, calls it
           a war crime.
          28 March 2003:
           Substance of statement
           retracted by UK defense
           officials.
Lewandowsky et al. (2005):
           Overview Of Method
Participants in Australia (N=158), Germany
 (N=412), and the United States (N=302).
Questionnaire targeting specific news events
      Items believed to be true at the time (T)
      Items presented as true but then retracted (FR)
       (e.g., Tony Blair‘s POW claim)
      Items that were freely invented (F)
       (but with focus on plausibility)
Administered during April and May of 2003
 (War ―ended‖ on 1 May 2003).
                 Belief, Memory, And
                      Retraction
    For each T and
Truth ratings foritem: FR
            Heard or read
items considered only if this statement?
                      0
people acknowledged hearing  1        2      3             4
             definitely not       unsure if           definitely
of the event in the first place heard before
             heard before                             heard before
(some control for media
exposure) Statement true or false?
                        0         1       2      3        4
              definitely false          unsure        definitely true

    After first pass, present all items a second time:
                  never heard this item before OR
                        0          1      2      3          4
      definitely not been retracted    unsure        definitely been retracted
                             Belief (“Item True?”)
                               Ratings of Perceived Truth of News Statements by Co


Extent of belief was a function of memory—the better
                         4


                                      they believe it
people remember something, the moreGermany
                         3                                Australia
                                                          USA
       Ratings (0 - 4)




                         2




                         1




                         0
                                 TTrue
                                                           F
                                                           Fictional
                                         Statement Type
             Truth, Memory, And
             Retraction: FR Items
                  Germany         Australia      U.S.
 Predictor            p                p             p
Memory           .23      ***     .14          .69    ***

Retraction       −.42 *** −.27            **   −.02



Truth = .23 × Memory − .42 × Retraction
        More On Discounting:
        Highly Informed People
         Certain Of Retraction

Only consider people with          Only consider people whose
memory rating > 2                  retraction rating > 2



                 Having thus controlled for
                 media exposure to the extent
                 possible, let‘s consider the
                    FR truth ratings…..
       More On Discounting:
       Highly Informed People
      4
        Certain Of Retraction
Truth Rating
      2
      0




               Germany   Australia   U.S.
       More On Discounting:
       Highly Informed People
      4
        Certain Of Retraction
Truth Rating
      2
      0




               Germany   Australia   U.S.
       More On Discounting:
       Highly Informed People
      4
        Certain Of Retraction
                    t(61)=10.6, p < .0001
Truth Rating
      2
      0




               Germany     Australia        U.S.
                 Why?

Discounting of misinformation clearly
 differed between samples.
Susceptibility to false memories (earlier
 WMD data) also differed between samples.
How might these differences be explained?
―National characteristics?‖
Or a common underlying cognitive
 mechanism?
  Suspicion and Discounting

We know that suspicion enables people to
 discount mis-information
Possible operationalization of suspicion:
 Extent of agreement with the proposition
 that Iraq was invaded to ―Destroy weapons
 of mass destruction‖
                                            Presumed Reasons
                                          For The Invasion Of Iraq
                                              Importance Ratings of Reasons for the Iraq War in 2003 by Country

                              4
                                                                                                                            Germany

                             3.5
                                                                                                        2003                Australia
                                                                                                                            USA
Importance Ratings (0 - 4)




                              3

                             2.5

                              2

                             1.5

                              1

                             0.5

                              0
                                   Change Regime     Secure Oil   Destroy WMD    Finish First War   Bring Democracy   Fight Terrorism
                                                                            Reasons
                             Remember effects of suspicion on jurors?
    Suspicion and Retraction

  Suspicion = reverse code (WMD Reason)

Predict belief in FR items from memory,
 retraction, suspicion (plus other variables)
Can we explain behaviour of all samples
 simultaneously?
        Suspicion And Retraction
                           Model I     Model II     Model III
Predictors present              p           p           p
Memory                    .38   ***   .38    ***    .36   ***
Retraction               −.07
Suspicion × Retraction   −.32   ***   −.35   ***   −.20   ***
Australia × Retraction                             −.20   ***
Germany × Retraction                               −.27   ***
U.S. × Retraction                                  −.01
                          r2 = .31     r2 = .31    r2 = .35
Conclusions III: Misinformation
  And The Invasion Of Iraq
People believe media statements.
  In direct proportion to their memory for them.
  Despite knowing that statements have been
   retracted.
…. unless people are suspicious about
 motives surrounding the events in question.
But suspicion does not mean that true
 statements are also dismissed (Suspicion ≠
 Cynicism).
                Conclusion

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is
necessary that at least once in your life you
doubt, as far as possible, all things.
            −Descartes, Principles of
                        Philosophy, 1644


               lewan@psy.uwa.edu.au
        For slides: http://www.cogsciwa.com

				
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