Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: selecting 33 answers in just ONE minute?

Looking at the data of the second experiment of the Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation paper, I came across something rather strange. The time to complete the survey was recorded also and some of the participants finished the survey in an incredibly short timespan.

Let me first explain how I got there. I incidentally stumbled on it by looking at something else that initially puzzled me. This is how the population of experiment 2 was selected as explained in the section “Participants”:

Participants (N = 400) were a representative U.S. sample, recruited through, based on U.S. demographic data on gender, age, and income in the same fashion as for Experiment 1 (49.2% female, average age M ≈ 43 years, SD ≈ 15 years). The sample delivered by Qualtrics comprised only participants who had successfully answered all attention filter items. None of the participants had participated in Experiment 1. Outliers in the time taken to complete the survey (n = 8) were eliminated according to the outlier labelling rule as in Experiment 1. The final sample of participants (N = 392) were randomly allocated to the four experimental conditions: control (n = 98), inoculation (n = 98), misinformation (n = 99), and inoculation+misinformation (n = 97).

As it is explained here, I understood that there were 400 participants and 8 of them were outliers (in the sense that it took them too long to complete the survey). Subtracting those eight outliers left them with 392 final participants who were randomly allocated to the four experimental conditions.

In the order as it is explained in that paragraph, it didn’t make much sense to me.

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Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: the conclusion that could not be a conclusion

This is already the third post on the Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation paper of Cook, Lewandowsky and Ecker (2017). This post will focus on one paragraph in the general conclusions of this paper (my emphasis):

The ongoing focus on questioning the consensus, in concert with the gateway belief status of perceived consensus, underscores the importance of communicating the consensus [68,69]. However, positive consensus messaging is not sufficient, given recent findings that misinformation can undermine positive information about climate change [33,56]. As a complement to positive messages, inoculation interventions are an effective way to neutralize the influence of misinformation.

Although these are nice sounding conclusions, I have one problem with it: these could never ever be one of the conclusions that can be drawn from these two experiments described in the paper…

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Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: false balance and the perceived consensus

When I hear the complaint that there is a problem with false balance media coverage in the climate debate, then I am always surprised. False balance meaning both sides of the debate getting equal time, so the perception is that they are both equally likely, even when this is not the case. Personally, I am surprised because I hardly see this in practice. When there is a debate on climate change on for example our television, radio or newspapers, then it is between like-minded individuals from the alarmist side who might differ on some technicalities, but generally agree with each other.

Heck, when I look back to my believers years, then I can’t even remember who those “deniers” were or what they were standing for. If I heard a skeptical argument, then it came from an alarmist, who brought it in a denigrating way and then sabering it down. You know, THAT much balance.

This may differ in other countries of course. The Inoculation paper of Cook and Lewandowsky had one experiment devoted to false balance media coverage, so apparently, the authors considered it a big enough problem to devote one of the two experiments in their paper to it. I wondered in which country this is considered a problem. The study was approved by a Australian University, but the participants were recruited from the US population. Whatever the country may be, the skeptics there should be glad to have the opportunity to debate the other side on equal representation 😉

Experiment 1 in this paper investigates the effect of false balance on the perceived consensus of the participant, but also they investigated if it was possible to counteract this effect by “inoculating” the participants against it by showing in advance how a certain misconception works or by explaining in advance that there is a consensus.

There were 5 groups in this experiment:

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Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: definitions (or the lack thereof)

John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky (together with Ulrich Ecker) have released a new paper at the beginning of May 2017. It is called Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence.

The paper is about (skeptical) “misconceptions” and how to “neutralize” them by means of the inoculation theory. It is a topic that I recognize. John Cook wrote about this several times in the past. I was rather weary hearing his argumentation back then and this time it is no different.

The paper is certainly more thoughtfully written than the Alice-in-Wonderland paper (from two of the authors), but reading it, it is my impression that this is not the work of neutral researchers. I noticed that already in the beginning when I read the abstract. This is how it starts:

Misinformation can undermine a well-functioning democracy. For example, public misconceptions about climate science can lead to lowered acceptance of the reality of climate change and lowered support for mitigation policies.

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Mindfulness and sustainable behavior: how to find a correlation where none might exist

Since recently I discovered that there is a whole field of what is called ecopsychology. A couple days ago I started reading a paper by Amel, Manning, Scott and Koger (probably more about that later) and I wondered whether those four had previous papers as well on the subject. Apparently they had. Members of this group produced a bunch of papers with (an)other member(s). One of the those papers had the intriguing title “Mindfulness and Sustainable Behavior: Pondering Attention and Awareness as Means for Increasing Green Behavior” by Amel et al (2009). It was quite an intriguing read, hence this post.

The authors started from the observation that our rushed lifestyle separates us from nature and this let us fall back on automatic behaviors which are not necessarily sustainable. They investigated two aspects of mindfulness: acting with awareness (paying attention) and being in the here-and-now (observing sensations). The authors hypothesized that paying attention is necessary for making sustainable choices and their goal is to break through this automatic behavior with mindfulness, so people could adopt a more sustainable behavior.

The conclusion of the paper was that, indeed, “acting with awareness is significantly positively correlated with self-reported sustainable behavior”. They arrived at this conclusion by means of a survey. Participants completed two questionaires. One to test their level of mindfulness (they investigated two aspects: “acting with awareness” and “observing sensations”) and the other to test their level of how “green” they were. Greenness was measured on a scale of 7: 0 being “not green” (meaning: never choose the most sustainable option available if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference) to 7 being “dark green” (meaning: always choose the most sustainable option available, even if it’s more costly in terms of time, money, convenience, or personal preference).

According to the authors, there was no correlation between “observing sensations” and the “self-reported Green Scale ratings”, but when they put “acting with awareness” against the “self-reported Green Scale ratings” in a graph, this was the result:

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It is not fair!

Yet another puzzling Facebook post from the owner of the Tesla powerwall (translated from Dutch, my bold emphasis):

Thanks to the backwards running meter, we did NOT receive an electricity invoice in the first 7 years (there are no fixed cost at Ecopower). However, this is not fair, since we have still put 70% (see #selfconsumption below) of our solar power on the grid to get it back later from the grid (at night and in the winter).

Says the guy who only one hour ago in his Facebook timeline said he produced as much as he consumes.

That is a rather puzzling claim. He acknowledged that he puts energy on the grid when it is sunny, to get it back later. Since his meter was running backwards and his electricity provider only charges for his consumption (that is correct, Ecopower is the only Belgian provider that does so), this means a zero invoice for his electricity use.

Initially, I was puzzled why he considers this “unfair”. To get this clear we will have to read further (translated from Dutch):

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Just an innocent bystander?

The more I look into the story of the family that owned a Tesla powerwall (see previous four posts), the more I get the impression that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. In the article (and also the video that was linked to), it was the man of the family who did the talking. He was portrayed as a family man from Kermt (a tiny village with a population of 4.122) who installed a powerwall and this allowed him and his family to reduce their dependence on the power grid.

Yet, I was not really convinced. He looked indeed as an ordinary family man, but he sounded knowledgeable, the video was well made and only the advantages were highlighted, avoiding the disadvantages altogether. It seemed more like a slick sales pitch than an objective news item.

Later I learned that he signed in for the new model of the Tesla (the car). It is a hyped status symbol, not something that an ordinary family man would go for and he probably would have a higher than average salary.

There was also the puzzling tagline on his Facebook account:


Here you find all details on the home battery of Tom Nijsen and his strive for an inter-dependent energy landscape.

His strive for an inter-dependent energy landscape?

These are not the words that I would expect from a simple family man.

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