Correcting Statistical Misinformation About Scientific Findings in the Media: Causation Versus Correlation

Dulcie Irving*, Robbie W A Clark, Stephan Lewandowsky, Peter J Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
342 Downloads (Pure)


Although retractions significantly reduce the number of references people make to misinformation, retracted information nevertheless persists in memory, continuing to influence reasoning. One hundred and twenty-nine lay participants completed an adaptation on the traditional continued influence paradigm, which set out to identify whether it is possible to debunk a piece of common statistical misinformation: inappropriate causal inference based on a correlation. We hypothesised that participants in the correction condition would make fewer causal inferences (misinformation) and more correlational inferences (correction) than those in the no-correction condition. Additional secondary hypotheses were that the number of references made to the misinformation and correction would be moderated by the level of trust in science and scientists, and the amount of television that participants watch. Although the secondary hypotheses were not supported, the data strongly supported the primary hypotheses. This study provides evidence for the efficacy of corrections about misinformation where correlational evidence has been inappropriately reported as causal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • TeDCog


  • Misinformation
  • Causation/Correlation
  • Debunking
  • Motivated Reasoning
  • Media


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