cover image Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity

Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity

Sander van der Linden. Norton, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-0-393-88144-8

Social psychologist Van der Linden debuts with a fascinating look at what makes people susceptible to conspiracy theories and other forms of misinformation and what to do about it. Analyzing Nazi propaganda campaigns, a debunked 1998 research paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism, Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and mob lynchings in India sparked by false child trafficking rumors spread on WhatsApp, van der Linden delves into the psychological and behavioral factors that make misinformation spread so fast and stick around so long. In one experiment, the mere presence of misinformation in an article about climate change “completely cancelled out” the change of perception people would have otherwise had from learning that 97% of scientists agree global warming is human-caused. Emphasizing similarities between the spread of misinformation and the spread of a physical virus, van der Linden calls for people to be forewarned of impending misinformation and given the arguments and cognitive tools they need to resist it; an online game developed by van der Linden and a team of researchers accomplishes just this sort of “inoculation.” Thoroughly researched and lucidly written, this is a standout guide to one of the world’s most pressing social issues. (Mar.)