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Digital Inoculation: Resisting Right Wing's Persuasion


"Fake news” is not going away anytime soon. It will probably just get worse. Trump’s latest tweets are an example of this. And as our society becomes more polarized, we are likely to have more fake news and radical messages spread like forest fire because of social media. And while some people might think that fake news doesn't work, psychology, research, and current events would tell us otherwise. So why is fake news so persuasive and impactful? As humans, we are easily swayed by memorable events rather than facts. And those radical events are easier to remember, real or not. In turn, the more we remember them, the more realistic they become. 
 Adults, for the most part, are capable of forming their opinions and determining fact from fiction. But what about children? If you are a parent worried about your kid getting influenced by these messages online, what do you do? What is the best way to build resistance to false messages?
 Below are a couple of techniques for attitude inoculation with examples from the advertising and political world. 
 Establish beliefs and stimulate commitment
Make a public commitment to what you believe. A solidified belief will make you less susceptible to other people’s beliefs.
A simple 'like' on Facebook can stimulate commitment. A study done by Adam Ferrier in 2013 revealed that people who 'like' a brand on Facebook or write a comment are more likely to make a purchase and recommend the brand to friends. We reaffirm loyalties and beliefs when we cultivate and build a relationship with a brand, person or association. 
One of the best examples of this is from Obama's campaign team in 2012. As you probably remember, it was a close election; Obama won by 51.1% against Romney (47.2%). Obama's success can be attributed to many things, but to focus on one specifically: Obama and his campaign team built a relationship with voters. They asked Americans to vote, whether Democrat or Republican, they just wanted people to get out and vote. Registered voters were just asked to sign a "pledge to vote" card, which featured a subtle photo of Barack Obama. This moment, although small, increased the likelihood that the person would vote, and would vote for the Democratic Party. 
Develop counterarguments
Like an inoculation against disease, even weak arguments will prompt counterargument, which is then available for stronger attack. Having stood up for your convictions, you will become less susceptible to what other have to say. William McGuire documented this inoculation theory in a series of experiments.
In advertising, we bring counterargument to mind in response to an opponent’s ads. This technique developed by Robert Cialdini is called "The poison parasite defense" because it combines a poison (strong counterarguments) with a parasite (a retrieval cue that brings those arguments to mind when seeing an opponents ads). 
Anti-smoking ads have effectively done this. Re-creating a “Marlboro Man” commercial set in the rugged outdoors but now showing a coughing, decrepit cowboy is an example of this. 
Similarly, Sprint applied this technique by hiring the Verizon's "Can You Hear Me Now" guy as their own pitchman. Sprint's new ads combine a poison (a strong reliability counterargument) with a parasite (the pitchman that creates the retrieval cue). The wireless company now claims that its reliability is within 1 percent of that of Verizon and AT&T and leaves T-Mobile in the dust.
At the end of the day, we are humans -- slightly imperfect and fairly irrational. We are swayed more by memorable events than facts. If we want to protect people against a contaminated social environment, we need to give them the ability to do so by stimulating their mental defenses.

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