Fake News on Social Media: People Believe What They Want to Believe When it Makes No Sense at All
36 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2018
Date Written: August 9, 2018
Fake news (i.e., misinformation) on social media has sharply increased over the past years. We conducted an experiment collecting behavioral and EEG data from 83 social media users to understand whether they could detect fake news on social media, and the factors affecting cognition and judgment. We found that confirmation bias dominates, with most users unable to distinguish real news from fake. Users exhibit greater cognitive activity when news headlines align with their political opinions, and they are more likely to believe them. Headlines that challenge their opinions receive little cognitive activity (i.e., they are ignored) and users are less likely to believe them. The presence of a fake news flag on a headline aligned with users’ opinions triggered cognitive activity that could be associated with increased semantic memory retrieval, false memory construction, or increased attention. However, this flag had no effect on judgments about truth; flagging headlines as false did not influence users’ beliefs. Only 17% of our participants could detect fake news better than chance, with only one detecting fake news more than 60% of the time. In other words, most social media users would make better truth judgments by flipping a coin.
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