Evidence is no match against the belief in false rumors concerning the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, a new study finds.
Researchers at Ohio State University found that fewer than one-third of people who had previously heard and believed one of the many rumors about the proposed center changed their minds after reading overwhelming evidence rejecting the rumor.
The false rumor that researchers used in the study was that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam backing the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque, is a terrorist sympathizer who has refused to condemn Islamic attacks on civilians.
There is no evidence that this statement is true, according to FactCheck.org, a fact-checking service run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and Politifact, the Pulitzer-Prize winning service of the St. Petersburg Times.
While providing a definitive rebuttal helped dispel belief in this rumor under two conditions, researchers found that it was easy to neutralize the positive effects of the rebuttal, simply through the use of certain photos or the addition of unrelated text.
“We didn’t have much success in shaking people’s beliefs in false rumors,” said R. Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State.
For the central role played by Fox News in promoting false rumours about the Park51 development, see here.