The Power of Pre-bunking: Dr. van der Linden on Misinformation Immunity


The American Psychological Association’s “Speaking of Psychology” podcast host Kim Mills and Dr. Sander van der Linden delve into the pervasive issue of misinformation in the digital age. Discussing its definitions, origins, and the psychology behind its spread, Dr. van der Linden highlights the challenges individuals face in distinguishing truth from falsehood. Drawing parallels between misinformation and a literal virus, he explores strategies to inoculate the public against the harmful effects of misleading information. The discussion explores the concept of “prebunking” as a proactive approach to building resilience against misinformation, distinct from traditional debunking. The metaphor of herd immunity is introduced, discussing the potential for societal resistance to misinformation. Kim Mills and Dr. Sander van der Linden also delve into the role of generative AI in misinformation, expressing both concerns and optimistic possibilities. Practical advice for individuals to recognize and combat misinformation is shared, emphasizing the importance of media literacy.

Discussion Points:


What factors contribute to the broad scope of misinformation, and why is defining it crucial?

  • Consider the different forms of misinformation discussed, such as fabricated information, half-truths, biased narratives, and their impact on public perception.

              Timestamp | 2:30 – 11:16


Why are individuals susceptible to misinformation, and what cognitive and social factors contribute to vulnerability?

  • Discuss the cognitive elements, such as fluency and illusory truth effects, along with social factors that make individuals susceptible to misinformation.

              Timestamp | 11:16 – 13:33


In what ways does misinformation spread like a virus, and how can epidemiological models help understand its dynamics?

  • Analyze the parallels between misinformation spread and a virus, considering models like the susceptible, infected, recovered model from epidemiology.

              Timestamp | 13:33 – 16:30


How does pre-bunking differ from debunking, and why is it considered a valuable strategy?

  • Consider how pre-bunking aims to build preemptive resilience by exposing individuals to weakened doses of misinformation.

              Timestamp | 16:30 – 18:17


Can misinformation be countered collectively to achieve “herd immunity”?

  • Explore the idea of integrating media literacy, including pre-bunking concepts, into education as a means to achieve lasting immunity.

              Timestamp | 18:17 – 23:30


What are the legitimate concerns about AI’s role in generating disinformation, and how can these concerns be addressed?

  • Examine the potential risks associated with AI in disinformation and explore ways to mitigate these risks.

              Timestamp | 23:30 – 28:20


How can individuals protect themselves in regard to the information they disclose online?

  • Reflect on how to recognize manipulation techniques like trolling and how avoiding engagement can also contribute to personal resilience.

              Timestamp | 28:20 – 32:42


Do traditional media outlets effectively contribute to educating the public about misinformation, and how could they improve?

  • Discuss the role of traditional media in informing and educating the public about misinformation, identifying areas for improvement.

              Timestamp | 32:42 – 35:02


How can public awareness and education, especially in schools, contribute to building resilience against misinformation?

  • Discuss the significance of integrating media literacy into education and empowering individuals to critically assess information.

              Timestamp | None