Behavior Analysts Battle Fake News

Photo by Elijah O'Donell on Unsplash

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

We live in a world of language, of information, consumed by millions of people through the Internet.  Unfortunately, recent years have seen a misinformation trend in the form of “fake news.”

The issue has become such a concern that Google recently invested $300 million into the Google News Initiative, which is incorporating “data journalism” into Google searches.  Moreover, the European Union is concerned about fake news influencing 2019 European elections, after suspected Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Behavior analysts Gleb Tsipursky and Zachary Morford recently published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Behavior and Social Issues on how to prevent fake news through the Pro Truth Pledge (PTP).

The pledge draws upon behavioral principles to prevent deception, and has been used effectively in the environmental sphere. Pledging requires signees to publicly commit to 12 specific behaviors that act as prompts to identify, verify, and retract misinformation. The authors claim that the pledge is based on a number of behavioral principles, including public commitment and self-control.

Public commitment is facilitated through social media-based reinforcers.  Signees can add a ProTruth seal to their social media profiles, and share it publicly. Every time a signee shares an article on social media, the seal comes with it.  The publicity of the seal also holds signees accountable for the information they share on social media by promoting public evaluation of articles according to the standards of the pledge.

The pledge itself was created in 2017 and has grown quickly via social media, with several thousand pledgees, including hundreds of public figures.  Moreover, groups have emerged across nearly half of the states in the U.S. to provide further social support for the movement.

To read more about how Tsipursky and Morford are evaluating the effectiveness of the Pledge from a behavior analytic perspective, be sure to read the full article. Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

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