We examined how age and exposure to different types of COVID-19 (mis)information affect misinformation beliefs, perceived credibility of the message and intention-to-share it on WhatsApp. Through two mixed-design online experiments in the UK and Brazil (total N = 1454) we first randomly exposed adult WhatsApp users to full misinformation, partial misinformation, or full truth about the therapeutic powers of garlic to cure COVID-19. We then exposed all participants to corrective information from the World Health Organisation debunking this claim. We found stronger misinformation beliefs among younger adults (18–54) in both the UK and Brazil and possible backfire effects of corrective information among older adults (55+) in the UK. Corrective information from the WHO was effective in enhancing perceived credibility and intention-to-share of accurate information across all groups in both countries. Our findings call for evidence-based infodemic interventions by health agencies, with greater engagement of younger adults in pandemic misinformation management efforts.
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Vijaykumar, S., Jin, Y., Rogerson, D., Lu, X., Sharma, S., Maughan, A., Fadel, B., de Oliveira Costa, M., Pagliari, C. & Morris, D. 2021, 'How Shades of Truth and Age Affect Responses to COVID-19 (Mis)Information: Randomized Survey Experiment among WhatsApp Users in UK and Brazil', Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8, article no: 88. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00752-7