The Role of Media in Political Polarization| Inoculation Can Reduce the Perceived Reliability of Polarizing Social Media Content

Isobel Harrop, Jon Roozenbeek, Jens Koed Madsen, Sander van der Linden


Little research is available on psychological interventions that counter susceptibility to polarizing online content. We conducted 3 studies (n1 = 472, n2 = 193, n3 = 772) to evaluate whether psychological resistance against polarizing social media content can be conferred, using the Bad News game, a “technique-based inoculation” intervention that simulates a social media feed. We investigate (1) whether technique-based inoculation can reduce susceptibility to content designed to fuel intergroup polarization; (2) whether technique-based inoculation can offer cross-protection against misinformation techniques that people were not inoculated against; and (3) whether political ideology plays a role in how people engage with anti-misinformation interventions. In Studies 1 and 3 (but not Study 2), we found that technique-based inoculation significantly reduces the perceived reliability of polarizing content and offers partial cross-protection against untreated misinformation techniques. We found no effect for attitudinal certainty and news-sharing intentions. Finally, we report preliminary evidence that people may choose to engage with politically congruent news topics within the intervention.



misinformation, polarization, inoculation theory, gamification, social media

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