The effects of positive and negative emotional text content on knowledge revision

Greg Trevors, Panayiota Kendeou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Across three experiments, we sought to determine the effects of positive and negative emotional content in refutation texts on misconceptions about vaccines. The addition of negative emotional content to texts that identify, refute, and explain vaccine misconceptions improved knowledge revision observed during reading (Experiment 1). However, the addition of positive emotional content to refutation texts weakened this effect (Experiment 2). A direct comparison between negative and positive emotional content provided corroborating evidence for these findings (Experiment 3). Across experiments, results show that all refutation texts (with or without positive or negative emotional content) improved learning assessed after reading. These findings show the differential effects of emotional content on processing misconceptions about an important socio-scientific topic and provide consistent support for refutation texts as a potentially useful tool in these corrective efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1326-1339
Number of pages14
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Funding for this work was provided by a postdoctoral fellowship to Greg Trevors from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (756-2015-0633).

Publisher Copyright:
© Experimental Psychology Society 2020.


  • Emotions
  • knowledge revision
  • misconceptions
  • refutation texts
  • vaccination


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