Why People Believe Fake News: Q&A

Confirmation Bias
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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Why People Believe Fake News: Q&A

🔥NEW Propaganda and fake news in social media have become a real and major threat to our society. Let's try together to build our understanding of this ugly phenomenon. To get started, here are some simple questions and answers about fake news:

WHAT IS FAKE NEWS? DEFINITION

  • According to Wikipedia, "Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news."
  • I suggest this definition is better: "Fake news is false and intentionally misleading information presented as news."
    In my opinion, news that is only false (wrong) is not fake news. Likewise, news that is misleading due to some mistake is also not fake news. The intention to mislead the receivers is essential.
  • The picture below is showing various categories of fake news.


WHY DID FAKE NEWS BECOME SO OMNIPRESENT? CAUSES

  1. Apparently it works (for people who try to manipulate other people).
  2. Social media act as a catalyst (= accelerator). Social media companies earn money by spreading outspoken, oversimplified opinions. It causes a lot of reactions and traffic on their websites. Let's skip this point here and leave it to the regulators.
  3. Little is and can be done to stop it in a free society. I also skip this point for now.
  4. People apparently believe it. This reason is perhaps most interesting for this knowledge center (confirmation bias).

WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE FAKE NEWS?

This is an interesting question that seems to have been somewhat neglected. Possible explanations are:
  1. Confirmation bias: the human tendency to search for, select, or interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions and prior beliefs. Social networks reinforce this tendency of people due to the way they are set up in various groups of likeminded "friends".
    But according to Serra-Garcia and Gneezy there is more to it. In a series of experiments they found 2 more reasons why we believe fake news (in social media):
  2. We are overconfident and bad at detecting lies. We believe we are good at judging if some story of claim is true, but we're just not!
  3. We tend to over-rely on shared content. If somebody else shares some info we get more interested (especially if it's by people we know).
⇨ Do you see other reasons for fake news to have become so prominent?
⇨ Perhaps you see other reasons explaining why people believe it?

Source: Serra-Garcia, M. and Gneezy U. (2021), "Mistakes, Overconfidence, and the Effect of Sharing on Detecting Lies", American Economic Review Vol. 111, No. 10, pp. 3160-83.

  Paramathmuni srinivas Kumar
India
 

Why People are Believing in Fake News

Believing in fake news is also a 4. Sort of distraction in order to experience/feel a flow condition. Engagement levels...

  Norman Dragt
Netherlands
 

Laziness of the Human Brain

What I am missing in this list of why people believe fake news is the 5. Laziness of the human brain when it comes to n...

  Flavio Farah
Professor
 

Lack of Critical Thinking

People also believe in fake news because they have 6. No / Lack of critical thinking. Lack of critical thinking is a f...

  John Henry
Project Manager, United States
 

Why we Believe Fake News...... Why we Believe Rumors and Bad Things About People...

Fake news is an extension of the negative communication called gossip. We hear it, and want to believe it because it con...

  Pierre Lesage
Student (University), Canada
 

Social Media are Accelerating Fake News

Believing in Fake News is largely based on what has been discussed on this page. I would add a certain 8. Laxity in cri...

  parmeggiani
Manager, Italy
 

Fake News and Paranoid Thinking

A little help from the psychoanalytic and psychiatric perspective. Many of us are affected by different degrees of 9. ... 5-6-2022

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands
 

Wow

You all wowed me… 9 causes already why people believe fake news. And all with good arguments. No fake news here at 12man... 5-6-2022

  Norman Dragt
Netherlands
 

The Effect of Social Influence

Another factor in believing fake news, is our 10. Need to be social and receive attention and praise from others. Most ... 5-6-2022

  Borje Vickberg
Sweden
 

Conspiracy Theories and Fake News

If you want to recognize fake news you better be aware of 11. Conspiracy theories. What are conspiracy theories really?... 5-6-2022

  Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa
 

Why People Think Fake News is Real

12. Creators of fake news are masters of their art Firstly, to distribute their propaganda they put in place a wide, un... 5-6-2022

  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom
 

The Faking of Trust

Accepting all the reasons given, there seems to be an underlying factor. 13. The lack of trust. (The majority of?) peo... 5-6-2022

  Gehrig Wiles
Management Consultant, United States
 

Low Information Voters

I agree with #5 by @Norman Dragt: Most people are too lazy to try to find out the truth, believing: "There are no versio... 9-6-2022

  Molokanova
Professor, Ukraine
 

Truth and Falsehood

It is very interesting to discuss such things as truth and falsehood, right and wrong, belief and unbelief. I think in c... 10-6-2022

  Antonio Lopez
Mexico
 

Truth is Relative

Anything can't BE and NOT BE at the same time and on same circumstances. However, everybody can believe in their "own tr... 22-6-2022

 

More on Confirmation Bias:
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👀Why People Believe Fake News: Q&A
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