How The New York Times is trying to combat the backfire effect
May 20, 2015
THE PRESS HAS FOREVER OPERATED ON A RELATIVELY SIMPLE MODEL: Journalists provide information, and readers in turn become more informed. A blissfully naive reader comes across an article on her favorite restaurant’s health code violations, and, armed with her newly acquired knowledge, decides to make dinner at home tonight.
It’s known as the information deficit model, and it’s the basis for not only news articles, but textbooks, scientific reports, and other forms of public education. But what happens when a reader doesn’t trust health inspectors?
Research in communications, sociology, and psychology shows that she’s likely to ignore the story all together. Across different forms of communication, it isn’t enough to simply provide new information. In fact, when that information contradicts someone’s tightly held beliefs, it’s likely to make her dig in even further.