The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.
(By way of the often excellent, and often nutty, Overcoming Bias.) I'm reminded of the difficulty I've had explaining that VMs and security don't really have much to do with one another. Is it possible that, in attempting to explain something really convoluted to a crowd that barely cares, we sometimes do more harm than good? If you find yourself in a situation where you're in possession of a counter-intuitive result, that's really hard to explain, but important none the less, what's the ethical thing to do, given that saying "X" will register in a lot of folks' minds as "not X"?