The ephemeral effects of fact-checks on COVID-19 misperceptions in the United States, Great Britain and Canada


Widespread misperceptions about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus threaten to exacerbate the severity of the pandemic. We conducted preregistered survey experiments in the United States, Great Britain and Canada examining the effectiveness of fact-checks that seek to correct these false or unsupported beliefs. Across three countries with differing levels of political conflict over the pandemic response, we demonstrate that fact-checks reduce targeted misperceptions, especially among the groups who are most vulnerable to these claims, and have minimal spillover effects on the accuracy of related beliefs. However, these reductions in COVID-19 misperception beliefs do not persist over time in panel data even after repeated exposure. These results suggest that fact-checks can successfully change the COVID-19 beliefs of the people who would benefit from them most but that their effects are ephemeral.

Nature Human Behaviour