The Effect of Dyadic Conversations on Coronavirus-Related Belief Change

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In a high-risk environment, such as during an epidemic, people are exposed to a large amount of information, both accurate and inaccurate. Following exposure, they typically discuss the information with each other in conversations. Here, we assessed the effects of such conversations on their beliefs. A sample of 126 M-Turk participants first rated the accuracy of a set of COVID-19 statements (pre-test). They were then paired and asked to discuss either any of these statements (low epistemic condition) or only the statements they thought were accurate (high epistemic condition). Finally, they rated the accuracy of the initial statements again (post-test). We did not find a difference of epistemic condition on belief change. However, we found that individuals were sensitive to their conversational partners, and changed their beliefs according to their partners’ conveyed beliefs. This influence was strongest for initially moderately held beliefs. In exploratory analyses, we found that pre-test COVID-19 knowledge was predicted by trusting Fauci, not trusting Trump, and feeling threatened by COVID-19. Conversely, pre-test COVID- 19 conspiracy endorsement was predicted by trusting Trump, not trusting Fauci, news media consumption, social media usage, and political orientation. In further exploration of the political orientation predictor, we found that Democrats were more knowledgeable than Republicans, and Republicans believed more conspiracies than Democrats.

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Last updated on 03/09/2021