Why Do We Fall for 'Fake News'?

iStock

There’s a lot of research interest these days in so-called fake news — journalism or propaganda based on sensationalism, exaggeration, or deliberate misinformation:

  • Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted an analysis of the source for information in the world today — Twitter — analyzing 126,000 contested news stories tweeted about by three million users, and determined that falsehoods spread faster and farther than accurate information.
  • An international study published in January 2018 suggests that about 70 percent of people worry that fake news is used a weapon and 60 percent aren’t confident that they can distinguish falsehoods from facts.

Research presented at the 2018 American Psychological Association convention in San Francisco explains the fake news phenomenon as confirmation bias. This term is used to describe the tendency to accept information that goes along with our pre-existing beliefs and ignore information that challenges us.

According to the researchers, confirmation bias develops early in life, as we learn to distinguish fantasy from reality. It explains why we accept or reject, misremember or distort information, based on whether it concurs with or threatens our personal views. We can fight back in a number of ways, such as through humor, positive action, and making a conscious effort to listen to other viewpoints.

Sourced from: Science