Inoculation (a.k.a. prebunking)

Digital boosting toolbox at the Long Night of the Sciences 2022 at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin)

Inoculation (a.k.a. prebunking)

Quick start

Let’s play GoViral

GO VIRAL! A 5-minute game that helps protect you against COVID-19 misinformation

GoViral is a 5-minute game about COVID-19 misinformation. Over three levels, players slowly descend into an online echo chamber where misinformation proliferates widely, all the while learning about some of the most common strategies used to spread false and misleading information about COVID-19.

The game is currently available in several languages, including German. Click the button on the top right of the page to change the language.

To play the game follow this link: https://www.goviralgame.com

Cranky Unkle app

The Cranky Unkle app uses cartoons, humor, and critical thinking to expose the misleading techniques of science denial and build public resilience against misinformation. The game was developed by Monash University’s John Cook.

The game is now available for free on iPhone, Android, and as a browser game.

Learn more

Inoculation: Where it came from

Inoculation research started in the 1960s with inoculation theory. Leading work on preemptive refutations of misinformation is currently being done by the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and by John Cook at Monash University in Australia.

How does inoculation work?

Inoculation is a preemptive refutation strategy that boosts people’s resilience to false and misleading information and manipulation online. Inoculation involves exposure to a weakened form of common disinformation and manipulation strategies. An inoculation message typically has two components:

  • An explicit warning about a potential threat of disinformation or manipulation.
  • A refutation of an anticipated argument, which exposes the disinformation strategy.

For example, an inoculation message could warn people that they are likely to see anti-vaccine messages from “fake experts” because this is a common tactic used to mislead people about the legitimacy of their claims. People would then become more resistant to misleading anti-vaccine messages that feature fake experts.

Created by researcher John Cook for Crunky Unkle, this video explains how inoculation builds resilience against misinformation.

Implementation

Inoculation can be implemented in various ways, including as games, short videos, or warning messages on social media.

Inoculation games

In inoculation games, people learn about common strategies used to manipulate and mislead the public (e.g., to cast doubt on climate change or spread conspiracy theories). The Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab has developed several games, including Bad News, GoViral!, and Harmony Square game, all available in several languages.

Inoculation games

Video inoculation

This example inoculates against the use of emotional language.