Best practices for ethical conduct of misinformation research: A scoping review and critical commentary

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Greene, Ciara M.
de Saint Laurent, Constance
Murphy, Gillian
Prike, Toby
Hegarty, Karen
Ecker, Ullrich K. H.
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Misinformation can have noxious impacts on cognition, fostering the formation of false beliefs, retroactively distorting memory for events, and influencing reasoning and decision-making even after it has been credibly corrected. Researchers investigating the impacts of real-world misinformation are therefore faced with an ethical issue: they must consider the immediate and long-term consequences of exposing participants to false claims. In this paper, we first present an overview of the ethical risks associated with real-world misinformation. We then report results from a scoping review of ethical practices in misinformation research. We investigated (1) the extent to which researchers report the details of their ethical practices, including issues of informed consent and debriefing, and (2) the specific steps that researchers report taking to protect participants from the consequences of misinformation exposure. We found that fewer than 30% of misinformation papers report any debriefing, and almost no authors assessed the effectiveness of their debriefing procedure. Building on the findings from this review, we evaluate the balance of risk versus reward currently operating in this field and propose a set of guidelines for best practices. Our ultimate goat is to allow researchers the freedom to investigate questions of considerable scientific and societal impact white meeting their ethical obligations to participants.
Misinformation , Fake news , Ethics , Debriefing , Open science
Greene, C. M., de Saint Laurent, C., Murphy, G., Prike, T., Hegarty, K. and Ecker, U. K. H. (2022) 'Best practices for ethical conduct of misinformation research: A scoping review and critical commentary', European Psychologist. doi: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000491
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© 2022, Hogrefe. This version of the article may not completely replicate the final authoritative version published in European Psychologist at It is not the version of record and is therefore not suitable for citation.