Poison Parasite Counter: Turning Duplicitous Mass Communications Into Self-Negating Memory-Retrieval Cues

Robert B. Cialdini, Jessica Lasky-Fink, Linda J. Demaine, Daniel W. Barrett, Brad J. Sagarin, Todd Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Disinformation in politics, advertising, and mass communications has proliferated in recent years. Few counterargumentation strategies have proven effective at undermining a deceptive message over time. This article introduces the Poison Parasite Counter (PPC), a cognitive-science-based strategy for durably countering deceptive communications. The PPC involves inserting a strong (poisonous) counter-message, just once, into a close replica of a deceptive rival’s original communication. In parasitic fashion, the original communication then “hosts” the counter-message, which is recalled on each reexposure to the original communication. The strategy harnesses associative memory to turn the original communication into a retrieval cue for a negating counter-message. Seven experiments (N = 3,679 adults) show that the PPC lastingly undermines a duplicitous rival’s original communication, influencing judgments of communicator honesty and favorability as well as real political donations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1811-1829
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Science
Volume32
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • associative processes
  • cognitive processes
  • open data
  • open materials
  • policy making
  • preregistered

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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