Psychotherapy and Patient Disinformation: Are patients getting correct information about their illness?

What does the Iraq war of 2003 have to do with mental illness? More than you might think.

Disinformation, the giving of false information intended to deceive or mislead, is not a new concept, but perhaps it is when associated with mental health care. It is difficult to think any practitioner, in this case psychotherapists, would knowingly give false information to their patients but that’s exactly what can happen when therapist-beliefs are more important than the science of psychiatry and psychology.

Yes, there is science behind the profession of psychotherapy. There are scientific studies on human behavior and related fields conducted in laboratories around the world every day but the public is generally unaware of this fact. Perhaps that is why, for example, arguments about the role memory plays in how we remember events and later recall them.



Memory for fact, fiction, and misinformation:

the Iraq War 2003

Author information 

Psychol Sci. 2005 Mar;16(3):190-5.


Media coverage of the 2003 Iraq War frequently contained corrections and retractions of earlier information. For example, claims that Iraqi forces executed coalition prisoners of war after they surrendered were retracted the day after the claims were made. Similarly, tentative initial reports about the discovery of weapons of mass destruction were all later disconfirmed. We investigated the effects of these retractions and disconfirmations on people’s memory for and beliefs about war-related events in two coalition countries (Australia and the United States) and one country that opposed the war (Germany). Participants were queried about (a) true events, (b) events initially presented as fact but subsequently retracted, and (c) fictional events. Participants in the United States did not show sensitivity to the correction of misinformation, whereas participants in Australia and Germany discounted corrected misinformation. Our results are consistent with previous findings in that the differences between samples reflect greater suspicion about the motives underlying the war among people in Australia and Germany than among people in the United States.


Lewandowsky S, Stritzke WG, Oberauer K, Morales M. Memory for fact, fiction, and misinformation: the Iraq War 2003. Psychol Sci. 2005 Mar;16(3):190-5.

New Yorker: I Don’t Want to be Right

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