False Memories for Fake News During Ireland's Abortion Referendum

12 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2019

See all articles by Gillian Murphy

Gillian Murphy

University College Cork - School of Applied Psychology

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Rebecca Grady

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Linda Levine

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Ciara Greene

University College Dublin (UCD) - School of Psychology

Date Written: September 5, 2019

Abstract

The current study examined false memories in the week preceding the 2018 Irish abortion referendum. Participants (N = 3,140) viewed six news stories concerning campaign events—two fabricated and four authentic. Almost half of the sample reported a false memory for at least one fabricated event, with more than one third of participants reporting a specific memory of the event. “Yes” voters (those in favor of legalizing abortion) were more likely than “no” voters to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “no,” and “no” voters were more likely than “yes” voters to “remember” a fabricated scandal regarding the campaign to vote “yes.” This difference was particularly strong for voters of low cognitive ability. A subsequent warning about possible misinformation slightly reduced rates of false memories but did not eliminate these effects. This study suggests that voters in a real-world political campaign are most susceptible to forming false memories for fake news that aligns with their beliefs, in particular if they have low cognitive ability.

Keywords: false memory, politics, fake news, misinformation, bias, open data, open materials

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Gillian and Loftus, Elizabeth F. and Grady, Rebecca and Levine, Linda and Greene, Ciara, False Memories for Fake News During Ireland's Abortion Referendum (September 5, 2019). Psychological Science, 2019, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-49, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3448842

Gillian Murphy (Contact Author)

University College Cork - School of Applied Psychology ( email )

Ireland

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

University of California, Irvine School of Law

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Rebecca Grady

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

Linda Levine

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

Ciara Greene

University College Dublin (UCD) - School of Psychology ( email )

Dublin
Ireland

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