The Psychology of Fake News

  title={The Psychology of Fake News},
  author={Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand},
  journal={Trends in Cognitive Sciences},
We synthesize a burgeoning literature investigating why people believe and share false or highly misleading news online. Contrary to a common narrative whereby politics drives susceptibility to fake news, people are 'better' at discerning truth from falsehood (despite greater overall belief) when evaluating politically concordant news. Instead, poor truth discernment is associated with lack of careful reasoning and relevant knowledge, and the use of heuristics such as familiarity. Furthermore… 

Figures from this paper

Digital literacy is associated with more discerning accuracy judgments but not sharing intentions
It has been widely argued that social media users with low digital literacy—who lack fluency with basic technological concepts related to the internet—are more likely to fall for online
“It’s true! I saw it on WhatsApp”: Social Media, Covid-19, and Political-Ideological Orientation in Brazil
The Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil was widely affected by politics and the population’s consumption of information is fundamental to understanding the situation. This study aimed at understanding the
Counterintuitive Pseudoscience Propagates by Exploiting the Mind’s Communication Evaluation Mechanisms
Drawing on recent empirical evidence, it is suggested that counterintuitive pseudoscience triggers the mind’s communication evaluation mechanisms and support for counter intuitive pseudoscientific concepts may come from deference to apparently authoritative sources, reasoned arguments, and the functional outcomes of these beliefs.
Dark social media participation and well-being.
Preliminary research on the perpetrators indicates positive emotions and specific gratifications resulting from their behavior, in particular when it is fully consistent with their ideologies, could be the key to a better understanding of the dark side of social media.
Deception and the marketplace of ideas
Deepfake detection by human crowds, machines, and machine-informed crowds
It is found that manipulations designed to disrupt visual processing of faces hinder human participants’ performance while mostly not affecting the model’s performance, suggesting a role for specialized cognitive capacities in explaining human deepfake detection performance.
Field Experiments on Social Media
Online behavioral data, such as digital traces from social media, have the potential to allow researchers an unprecedented new window into human behavior in ecologically valid everyday contexts.
Health-related fake news on social media platforms: A systematic literature review
This review aims to (a) investigate the characteristics of both the research community and the published research on health-related fake news on social media platforms, and (b) identify the


The Impact of Political Sophistication and Motivated Reasoning on Misinformation
ABSTRACT The debate around political misinformation is gaining increasing relevance among the general and academic audience. If a large body of work is devoted to understanding the mechanisms of
Lazy, not biased: Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning
Why do people believe blatantly inaccurate news headlines ("fake news")? Do we use our reasoning abilities to convince ourselves that statements that align with our ideology are true, or does
Shifting attention to accuracy can reduce misinformation online.
It is found that the veracity of headlines has little effect on sharing intentions, despite having a large effect on judgments of accuracy, and that subtly shifting attention to accuracy increases the quality of news that people subsequently share.
Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News
It is shown that even a single exposure increases subsequent perceptions of accuracy, both within the same session and after a week, and that social media platforms help to incubate belief in blatantly false news stories and that tagging such stories as disputed is not an effective solution to this problem.
Fighting misinformation on social media using crowdsourced judgments of news source quality
It is found that laypeople—on average—are quite good at distinguishing between lower- and higher-quality sources, and having algorithms up-rank content from trusted media outlets may be a promising approach for fighting the spread of misinformation on social media.
An initial accuracy focus prevents illusory truth
This work tackled the illusory truth effect by prompting people to behave like "fact checkers" and found that focusing on accuracy at exposure wiped out the illusion later, but only when participants held relevant knowledge.
The science of fake news
Social and computer science research regarding belief in fake news and the mechanisms by which it spreads is discussed, focusing on unanswered scientific questions raised by the proliferation of its most recent, politically oriented incarnation.
Fake news, fast and slow: Deliberation reduces belief in false (but not true) news headlines.
The data suggest that, in the context of fake news, deliberation facilitates accurate belief formation and not partisan bias.
Who falls for fake news? The roles of bullshit receptivity, overclaiming, familiarity, and analytic thinking.
The results suggest that belief in fake news may be driven, to some extent, by a general tendency to be overly accepting of weak claims, which may be partly responsible for the prevalence of epistemically suspect beliefs writ large.
The Role of Source, Headline and Expressive Responding in Political News Evaluation
Studies have observed that readers are more likely to trust news sources that align with their own political leanings. We ask: is the higher reported trust in politically aligned news sources due to