For a quick self-check, download this short guide, The Debunking Handbook, by Skeptical Science’s John Cook and Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky. It’s free, and in just 6 pages shows you how to avoid the “backfire effect” and make your corrections stick.
You can trust Cook and Lewandowsky’s advice; it’s all solidly grounded in cognitive psychology research.
Here are my “Top Ten” take-away points:
- Myth are tough to kill. Don’t kid yourself. Just providing new information doesn’t work because “mud sticks.”
- Avoid repeating the myth. Repeating the myth makes the falsehood more familiar and memorable. (Remember “Beans in My Ears?”)
- Wrap the myth in a “truth sandwich.” Begin and end with the facts, not the myth.
- Innoculate your listener. If you must state the myth once, preface it with an explicit warning, e.g. “Watch out. you may be misled.”
- Avoid overkill. Think KISS: “Keep it simple, stupid” Research shows — and trial lawyers know — that three points are more persuasive than ten.
- Encourage your listener. When people feel good about themselves, they are more open new information that may conflict with pre-existing views. Check any anger and arrogance at the door.
- Frame it in the listener’s values. Avoid trigger words (e.g. “tax”) that may threaten other people”s worldview.
- Weaken the myth by exposing ulterior motives and logical fallacies. This helps create a “gap” where facts can enter.
- Graphics are more effective than text in correcting misconceptions.
- Focus on the undecided majority, not the unswayable minority.
This is just a quick and subjective gloss. Anybody serious about climate communication and persuading others should read this 6-page gem.