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Grant Details

Grant Number: 4R00CA248720-03 Interpret this number
Primary Investigator: Swire-Thompson, Briony
Organization: Northeastern University
Project Title: Cancer Misinformation on Social Media and Its Correction
Fiscal Year: 2023


Project Summary The overarching goal of this study is to measure the prevalence of cancer misinformation on social media and understand the mechanisms that underlies its spread. Belief in misinformation can have serious ramifications, particularly when the misinformation is regarding life threatening conditions such as cancer. We currently lack answers to even basic questions regarding cancer misinformation online. For example, how much cancer misinformation is there on social media? How do people make assessments of trust and source credibility? How well do people update their beliefs when cancer misinformation is corrected? What are the psychological mechanisms of this belief updating? This Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) application by Dr. Briony Swire-Thompson intends to fill this knowledge gap by building on her prior research regarding misinformation prevalence on social media, source credibility, and the correction of misinformation. The proposed research will be complemented by focused training on three areas, (1) increasing Dr. Swire- Thompson’s knowledge of cancer and cancer misconceptions (2) furthering her social media data skills, and (3) fostering professional development to facilitate the transition into an independent research position. These training goals will be supervised by an interdisciplinary mentoring team. This team will be led by Dr. Lazer, a University Distinguished Professor of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute. The co-mentors will be Dr. Viswanath, a cancer communications expert and Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Dr. Johnson, an oncologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. This training will aid Dr. Swire- Thompson to answer three specific research aims. First, the prevalence of cancer misinformation on social media will be investigated. In the K99 phase, she will focus on Twitter to investigate who is more likely to be exposed to and share cancer-related misinformation. In the R00 phase this will be extended to Facebook, where we invite a representative sample of individuals to donate their social media data and respond to surveys regarding their relationship with cancer, and why they share information. The second specific aim is to investigate how people make judgements of source credibility, and the extent that credibility is reduced when cancer sources are disreputable (such as spreading misinformation or having a lack of expertise). The third specific aim is to understand the cognitive mechanisms behind updating belief in cancer misinformation. This will be conducted by exploring whether cancer-related misinformation is more difficult to correct than non- cancer related misinformation, and if so, why? This will be tested in both a general population and a population whose close relatives have cancer. In sum, this 5-year research and training plan will allow Dr. Swire- Thompson to establish an independent research program dedicated to understanding cancer misinformation on social media and its correction.


Cancer: A model topic for misinformation researchers.
Authors: Swire-Thompson B. , Johnson S. .
Source: Current opinion in psychology, 2024 Apr; 56, p. 101775.
EPub date: 2023-11-28.
PMID: 38101247
Related Citations

Examining the replicability of backfire effects after standalone corrections.
Authors: Prike T. , Blackley P. , Swire-Thompson B. , Ecker U.K.H. .
Source: Cognitive research: principles and implications, 2023-07-03; 8(1), p. 39.
EPub date: 2023-07-03.
PMID: 37395864
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Memory failure predicts belief regression after the correction of misinformation.
Authors: Swire-Thompson B. , Dobbs M. , Thomas A. , DeGutis J. .
Source: Cognition, 2023 Jan; 230, p. 105276.
EPub date: 2022-09-26.
PMID: 36174261
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Misinformation and the Sins of Memory: False-Belief Formation and Limits on Belief Revision.
Authors: Newman E.J. , Swire-Thompson B. , Ecker U.K.H. .
Source: Journal of applied research in memory and cognition, 2022 Dec; 11(4), p. 471-477.
PMID: 37351375
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Cancer Misinformation and Harmful Information on Facebook and Other Social Media: A Brief Report.
Authors: Johnson S.B. , Parsons M. , Dorff T. , Moran M.S. , Ward J.H. , Cohen S.A. , Akerley W. , Bauman J. , Hubbard J. , Spratt D.E. , et al. .
Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2022-07-11; 114(7), p. 1036-1039.
PMID: 34291289
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The backfire effect after correcting misinformation is strongly associated with reliability.
Authors: Swire-Thompson B. , Miklaucic N. , Wihbey J.P. , Lazer D. , DeGutis J. .
Source: Journal of experimental psychology. General, 2022 Jul; 151(7), p. 1655-1665.
EPub date: 2022-02-07.
PMID: 35130012
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Reducing Health Misinformation in Science: A Call to Arms.
Authors: Swire-Thompson B. , Lazer D. .
Source: The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2022 Mar; 700(1), p. 124-135.
EPub date: 2022-05-05.
PMID: 37936790
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Correction format has a limited role when debunking misinformation.
Authors: Swire-Thompson B. , Cook J. , Butler L.H. , Sanderson J.A. , Lewandowsky S. , Ecker U.K.H. .
Source: Cognitive research: principles and implications, 2021-12-29; 6(1), p. 83.
EPub date: 2021-12-29.
PMID: 34964924
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