Beliefs Don't Always Persevere: How Political Figures Are Punished When Positive Information about Them Is Discredited



Recent research has extended the belief-perseverance paradigm to the political realm, showing that negative information about political figures has a persistent effect on political opinions even after it has been discredited. However, little is known about the effects of false positive information about political figures. In three experiments, we find that discrediting positive information generates a “punishment effect” that is inconsistent with the previous literature on belief perseverance. We argue people attempt to adjust for the perceived influence of the false claim when the information is discredited. In this case, when trying to account for the effects of discredited positive information about a politician, people overestimate how much correction is needed and thus end up with a more negative opinion. (By contrast, people underestimate how much correction is needed to adjust for false negative information, leading to belief perseverance.) These results suggest that bogus credit claiming or other positive misinformation can have severe repercussions for politicians.