I recently listened to an episode of the Point of Inquiry podcast titled “The Debunking Handbook” which dealt with the question of how to most effectively go about “debunking” various myths, pseudosciences, and misconceptions. The general thrust of the episode, which I highly recommend, is that most of us who call ourselves skeptics don’t really do that good of a job of communicating our debunking in a successful manner. In fact, many skeptics actually make the problem worse by inadvertently reinforcing the bunk they are trying to debunk!
Needless to say, this kind of thing is right up my alley, and I think it is well worth your while to take heed of the advice given in “The Debunking Handbook”…
Posted on 27 November 2011 by John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky
The Debunking Handbook, a guide to debunking misinformation, is now freely available to download. Although there is a great deal of psychological research on misinformation, there’s no summary of the literature that offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the research down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas (not just climate) who encounter misinformation.
The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them, such as: