Who Falls for Fake News? The Roles of Bullshit Receptivity, Overclaiming, Familiarity, and Analytic Thinking
Pennycook, G. & Rand, D. G. Who falls for fake news? The roles of bullshit receptivity, overclaiming, familiarity, and analytic thinking. Journal of Personality, Forthcoming
63 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2017 Last revised: 27 Mar 2019
Date Written: March 22, 2019
Objective: Fake news represents a particularly egregious and direct avenue by which inaccurate beliefs have been propagated via social media. We investigate the psychological profile of individuals who fall prey to fake news. Method: We recruited 1,606 participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for three online surveys. Results: The tendency to ascribe profundity to randomly generated sentences – pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity – correlates positively with perceptions of fake news accuracy, and negatively with the ability to differentiate between fake and real news (media truth discernment). Relatedly, individuals who overclaim their level of knowledge also judge fake news to be more accurate. We also extend previous research indicating that analytic thinking correlates negatively with perceived accuracy by showing that this relationship is not moderated by the presence/absence of the headline’s source (which has no effect on accuracy), or by familiarity with the headlines (which correlates positively with perceived accuracy of fake and real news). Conclusion: Our results suggest that belief in fake news may be driven, to some extent, by a general tendency to be overly accepting of weak claims. This tendency, which we refer to as reflexive open-mindedness, may be partly responsible for the prevalence of epistemically suspect beliefs writ large.
Keywords: fake news, news media, social media, analytic thinking, cognitive reflection test, intuition, dual process theory, bullshit, bullshit receptivity
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