Pictures are Worth Many Words: Effectiveness of Visual Communication in Dispelling the Rent–Control Misconception

Abstract

The popular belief that rent–control leads to an increase in the amount of affordable housing is in contradiction with ample empirical evidence and congruent theoretical explanations. It can therefore be qualified as a misconception. We present the results of a preregistered on–line experiment in which we study how to dispel this misconception using a refutational approach both in a video and in a text format. Communication in a video format comes closer to how citizens are typically exposed to information. We find that the refutational video has a significantly higher positive impact on revising the misconception than a refutational text, an effect that is driven by the departure from the misconception by individuals who initially agreed with it. The refutational text, in turn, does not have a significant impact relative to a non–refutational baseline text. Higher cognitive reflective ability positively affects the impact on beliefs of all interventions. Our research shows that visual communication effectively reduces the gap between scientific economic knowledge and the views of citizens.