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The Debunking Handbook

November 30, 2011

Here’s a good primer for debunking myths from Skeptical Science. The Debunking Handbook by John Cook (Global Change Institute, University of Queensland) and Stephan Lewandowsky (School of Psychology, University of Western Australia) delve into the problems inherent in debunking myths. From the PDF’s introduction:

Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these “backfire effects”, an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation.

The tips in the handbook are useful when debating with brainwashed members of MLM organizations. Often times, we are surprised at how stubborn and steadfast MLM-proponents can be, even when presented with the truth right in their faces. Many ex-TEAM members and MLM critics, myself included, are guilty of providing too much information. Dubbed the overkill backfire effect, this might be causing the myth — for instance that you can be successful in MLM — to be reinforced in the mind of the brainwashed. One solution, Cook and Lewandowsky argue, is to keep our arguments lean and simple to understand and follow.

There’s plenty more, so check out the PDF link here and comment below on how you might improve your arguments when talking with those lost within the haze of an unsuccessful MLM career.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2011 6:36 pm

    Thanks I’m going to add this to my list of things to read – probably near the top.

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