The illusory truth effect (also known as the validity effect, truth effect or the reiteration effect) is the tendency to believe information to be correct after repeated exposure. This phenomenon was first identified in a 1977 study at Villanova University and Temple University. When truth is assessed, people rely on whether the information is in line with their understanding or if it feels familiar. The first condition is logical as people compare new information with what they already know to be true. Repetition makes statements easier to process relative to new, unrepeated statements, leading people to believe that the repeated conclusion is more truthful. The illusory truth effect has also been linked to “hindsight bias”, in which the recollection of confidence is skewed after the truth has been received.
In a 2015 study, researchers discovered that familiarity can overpower rationality and that repetitively hearing that a certain fact is wrong can affect the hearer’s beliefs. Researchers attributed the illusory truth effect’s impact on participants who knew the correct answer to begin with, but were persuaded to believe otherwise through the repetition of a falsehood, to “processing fluency“.
The illusory truth effect plays a significant role in such fields as election campaigns, advertising, news media, and political propaganda. Wikipedia at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fwqGwK30oHsNwT_t9jchSGKW2wuAZe8BQ7OrqTG-XVY/edit
The illusory truth effect also plays a significant role in divorce and mediation. Couples often come to divorce and mediation with numerous information gleaned from numerous sources which has often been repeated many times.
So, how do we discredit lies without repeating them and spreading them further? The answer is simple. When reporting false statements, always lead with the truth.
UC Berkeley Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff is one of the most prominent figures to promote this idea. He suggests that when reporting one of a lie, we should always talk about the truth first. Then, we should briefly note the lie before going back to the truth. He sometimes refers to this idea as a #TruthSandwich.
“How do you combat the illusory truth effect. “This strategy might be a successful antidote to the illusory truth effect. Studies suggest that we remember beginnings and endings far better than middles, so calling out a lie – but making sure we put the lie in the middle, where we will least remember it – may help us ensure that the things that feel truthful to us actually are.
Instead of directly repeating a false claim, consider this framing instead: “The facts are X, but some have falsely claimed Y. Let’s focus on X.” This is a simple solution that journalists, social media managers, fact-checking websites, and individuals can use to make sure that we spread truth, not lies.
When reporting lies, the facts should always come first. This way, our minds will stop confusing “alternative facts” with real ones. Psychology Today at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/words-matter/201807/when-correcting-lie-dont-repeat-it-do-instead-2
Mediators should try this technique.
Learn more about mediation at https://www.center-divorce-mediation.com CDM (364) 8/1/19