Savannah Hulsey Pointer, FISM News
The government launched a program in 2017 to research a way to “correct false beliefs” held by Americans through the use of “fact-checkers” to combat alleged “misinformation” online. A grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored a study called ”How False Beliefs Form and How to Correct Them.”
Lisa Fazio, an associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, received $444,345 for the project initially, but since it began she has received $506,478, according to a report by WarRoom’s Natalie Winters.
“There is currently an urgent need to understand the real-world effects of misinformation on people’s beliefs and how to best correct false beliefs,” explains a synopsis of the grant’s purpose on the NSF website.
“Through a series of laboratory and naturalistic experiments, the project team is examining the effects of repetition on belief in real-world settings and how to more effectively counteract misinformation,” continues the summary of the project, which is set to conclude in 2024.
“By examining these basic psychological processes in the primary domain within which they affect daily life – misinformation on social media – this work will have implications for real-world practices aimed at reducing the impact of misinformation.”
According to the publication, the research will “inform real-world practices aimed at reducing the impact of misinformation,” and the NSF notes that “fact-checking practitioners are consulted to help guide the research, and results will be discussed with them.”
However, the NSF does not name any of its fact-checking partners, who are known to lean ideologically to the left. Fazio, who is the Principal Investigator on the project, also noted in her professional bio that her “research informs basic theories about learning and memory, while also having clear applications for practitioners, such as journalists and teachers.”
According to the recent report, the research will also “leverage core principles of cognitive psychology” in a “series of studies investigate[ing] how to best correct false beliefs.”
“Using predictions derived from existing theories within memory, language, linguistics, and communications, the project is testing various design features hypothesized to improve the effectiveness of misinformation debunking strategies. Findings will reveal the cognitive mechanisms underlying successful misinformation debunking, and how fact-checkers should best present their findings,” explains the project summary. “Overall, the results will inform and constrain current theories of how beliefs form and can be changed.”
Americans responded negatively when the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would be launching a Disinformation Governance Board, eventually forcing the agency to pause the program just three weeks after it was announced.
According to Forbes, the board’s halt was due to “partisan fights and right-wing attacks on the Board’s leader, Nina Jankowicz,” but goes on to assert that “the Board was doomed from the moment it was named.”
They further state, “The name itself suggests illegal government activity that the American people would never tolerate, regardless of their partisan affiliation. Legally, it is rarely permissible for the U.S. government to be the arbiter of truth. The name suggested that it would do just that—despite DHS officials’ protests that it was designed to protect free speech.”
As Forbes pointed out, few situations are allowed by U.S. law where the government may decide what is true and what is untrue. Law in the United States generally protects all speech, whether it is seen as “true” or “false.” This freedom has been incorporated into the American identity. Americans take great satisfaction in their ability to choose their own reality and to live in a free market of ideas.