HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


Disinformation in politics, advertising, and mass communications has proliferated in recent years. Few counter-argumentation strategies have proven effective at undermining a deceptive message over time. This paper introduces the Poison Parasite Counter (PPC), a cognitive science-based strategy for durably countering deceptive communications. The PPC involves inserting a strong (poisonous) counter-message, just once, into a close replica of a deceptive rival’s original communication. In parasitic fashion, the original communication then “hosts” the counter-message, which is recalled upon each re-exposure to the original communication. The strategy harnesses associative memory to turn the original communication into a retrieval cue for a negating counter-message. Seven experiments (N = 3,679) show that the PPC lastingly undermines a duplicitous rival’s original communication, influencing judgments of communicator honesty and favorability, as well as real political donations.


Cialdini, Robert, Jessica Lasky-Fink, Linda J. Demaine, Daniel W. Barrett, Brad J. Sagarin, and Todd Rogers. "oison Parasite Counter: Turning Duplicitous Mass Communications Into Self-Negating Memory-Retrieval Cues." Psychological Science (May 2021).