Facing Falsehoods: Strategies for Polite Misinformation Correction

Pranav Malhotra, Katy Pearce


Misinformation is a serious problem. One gap in misinformation correction research is understanding the role of relational concerns, particularly adherence to politeness norms within relationships. Combining insights from the politeness literature with the misinformation correction strategies scholarship, through an interview study (N = 26) of Indian young adults, we examined how they make sense of their correction experiences with older relatives who share misinformation on WhatsApp. We found that localized relational norms associated with politeness are underscored in these accounts as participants discussed employing strategies that decreased the sense of direct interaction to avoid being viewed as disrespectful and questioning the competency of higher status elders. These included using a credible alternative explanation, broad spectrum immunizing, and an emergent strategy of addressing the broader topic, without mentioning the misinformation incident. Participants’ accounts reflected that these more indirect approaches were aimed toward achieving goals of both correction and adherence to politeness norms.


misinformation, correction, debunking, politeness, face, goals, India

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