Response Modes

What should I say, and how should I say it?

When faced with a statement or conversation in which misinformation is being shared, or the topic is contested and not well understood, it can be difficult to know how to engage and respond.  What does the research say? 

In fact, a world of possibilities exist. Here are some options for conversational responses that reflect the latest research, are effective, and build trust that our team is actively exploring in the ARTT Research Catalog.

To correct someone in a discussion is to “show or tell someone that something is wrong and to make it right” (Cambridge Dictionary). Goals can vary: there can be times when you want to correct the speaker regarding information around a specific issue such as climate change or vaccination. Other times the goal might be equipping the speaker with general skills to identify inaccurate information.  There might also be times when you want to make sure that others listening in on the conversation have access to correct facts.  

Ways to approach correction vary, but among current recommendations is an approach that goes beyond merely pointing out the error and providing correct information, to explaining why the error is wrong. This is because misinformation can still be believed even after a correction. Working through the rationale of understanding why it is believed can provide ways for the brain to more strongly remember the correction. [1]

This is a method that has been observed in practical interventions in which someone offers to undergo source evaluation and fact-checking processes in tandem with someone else [6]. Co-verification has yet to be tested in research studies, as far as we know.  It is likely to co-occur with other ARTT response modes, specifically Correct and Encourage Healthy Skepticism.

Deescalation is a reduction of hostilities between different individuals or groups. This is an overarching goal of efforts in conflict resolution or transformation (for a definition of conflict transformation, see [4]). Concretely, a number of methods such as using humor, reminding of shared values (see Encouraging Norms) can help in de-escalating a conflict. This mode is likely to co-occur with other ARTT response modes. 

Having empathy is pretty complicated to define, but it is an identification with someone else on the emotional level; in one version, “empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character” (Psychology Today). Empathizing is a key response in the conflictual exchanges where resolution or a transformation of the relationship is the goal.

To encourage healthy skepticism is to help others ask questions of the information they are reading, such as “What do other sources say?” or “What’s the evidence?” — see the Civic Online Reasoning project for specific examples. Being able to critically evaluate information is important with an attitude of healthy skepticism, by not immediately believing new claims. This response mode is not the same as being skeptical of all information, but rather encompasses a wide set of goals of information and media literacy programs.

Norms are principles of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior’ (Merriam Webster). In our catalog, norm encompasses a broad category of principles ranging from thinking about accuracy to being respectful and open in communication. Nudge-related interventions are labeled under this ARTT response mode. Some approaches from conflict resolution may also be included.

One definition of listen is “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration” (Merriam Webster). While listening may not seem much of a response, it is a critical part of a trust-building exchange, especially in situations where one is thinking about the possibilities for longer term dialogue or engagement outside the immediate message being considered. 

By listening silently, participants can understand more about whether or how to respond. It may be that, for example, the person you want to engage with isn’t really willing or ready to discuss differences of opinion [8].  It can also be that responding to a query only with factual answers misses cues that the message writer is sending about problems they are having. Listening silently is a step to listening actively, where participants can use techniques to solicit more information from the speaker [7]

Sharing is an action that seems synonymous to social media. But in our catalog, it is used in a specific way to imply a deeper engagement in a conversation. Sharing one’s own story is one way that people explain their reasoning through their own personal experience of navigating a difficult decision (see for example [2, 5]).  There’s also a way that sharing information with shared values in mind can be a way to build trust. 

Perspective taking is an “act of viewing a situation from the point of view of others” [3].  By doing this, people can identify another person’s intentions and needs even though they may not agree with them. Some research has shown that taking the perspective of people that you are in conflict with can help reduce impasses and decrease discrimination.  

Last updated: May 16, 2022

A more in-depth view of response mode definitions, along with methods and outcomes, can be found here.


[1] Ecker, Ullrich K. H., Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Philipp Schmid, Lisa K. Fazio, Nadia Brashier, Panayiota Kendeou, Emily K. Vraga, and Michelle A. Amazeen. 2022. “The Psychological Drivers of Misinformation Belief and Its Resistance to Correction.” Nature Reviews Psychology 1 (1): 13–29.

[2] Haigh, Carol, and Pip Hardy. 2011. “Tell Me a Story — a Conceptual Exploration of Storytelling in Healthcare Education.” Nurse Education Today 31 (4): 408–11.

[3] Klimecki, Olga M., Matthieu Vétois, and David Sander. 2020. “The Impact of Empathy and Perspective-Taking Instructions on Proponents and Opponents of Immigration.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7 (1): 91.

[4] Maddison, Sarah. 2017. “Can We Reconcile? Understanding the Multi-Level Challenges of Conflict Transformation.” International Political Science Review / Revue Internationale de Science Politique 38 (2): 155–68.

[5] McFarling, Usha Lee. 2021. “A User’s Guide: How to Talk to Those Hesitant about the Covid-19 Vaccine.” STAT, March 26, 2021.

[6] Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. 2021. “A Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation.” Office of the U.S. Surgeon General.

[7] Rogers, Carl R., and Richard Evans Farson. 2015. Active Listening. Martino Fine Books.

[8] Van Til, Jon. 2011. “The Structure of Sustained Dialogue and Public Deliberation.” In Resolving Community Conflicts and Problems : Public Deliberation and Sustained Dialogue, edited by Roger A. Lohmann and Jon Van Til, 15–32. New York: Columbia University Press.