This study aimed to clarify the psychological mechanism by which individuals accept health misinformation from social media and how health misperceptions affect subsequent unhealthy behavior in the context of dewormer use.
An online survey was conducted with 307 South Korean adults exposed to dewormer use information on social media. The positive association between the respondents’ uncertainty about their health and factual misbeliefs about dewormer use was moderated by their pre-existing attitude toward so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) vs. standard treatments, suggesting that individuals who are uncertain but more favorable toward SCAM tend to accept factual misbeliefs more easily. Individuals’ uncertainty about their health and treatment for the health management was positively associated with conspiracy beliefs. Factual misbeliefs were the key mediator in the association between the interaction of uncertainty and pre-existing attitude toward SCAM vs. standard treatments and dewormer-taking intention.
This is a subject that we have discussed many times before. See, for instance, here:
- How can we reduce the belief in conspiracy theories?
- Conspiracy Beliefs Predict Health Behavior and Well-being during the Pandemic
- Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, mistrust, and compliance with government guidelines
- Mistrust + Misinformation —> CONSPIRACY THEORY
- Conspiracy theories and dangerous recommendations via YouTube videos
- “The cancer industry is a medical conspiracy against humanity” (The Turmeric story)
- Conspiracy theories, assumptions, opinions, evidence and scientific facts
- A conspiracy theory seems to be driving the popularity of alternative medicine
In my view, it is hugely important. Consumers who are uncertain, easily misled, convinced that ‘the establishment’ is against them, or prone to other conspiracy theories tend to be the ones that also fall easily for the lies of SCAM promoters. Indeed, I have previously suggested that SCAM itself is a conspiracy theory in disguise. Anyone who has been following the comment sections on this blog will find more evidence for this theory than he had ever needed, I fear.
It is clear to me that misinformation undermines not just evidence-based medicine but – much more dangerous -rationality in general. It would be thus urgent to do something about it.
In my view, the answer is to promote critical thinking. This, of course, is what I am aiming at with my blog. But my effort is merely a drop in the ocean. What we need is a systematic promotion of critial thinking on a much larger scale. It has to start at school and should be followed through to post-graduate education and beyond.
Such a strategy would require a very broad backing, not least on the political levels. And this is where the concept runs into insurmountable difficulties: politcians might not want us to be critical thinkers! This could enable the public to realize what often dismally poor jobs they might be up to.