Gordon Pennycook

Gordon Pennycook
University of Regina · Paul J Hill School of Business

B.A., M.A., PhD

About

156
Publications
234,231
Reads
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13,993
Citations
Introduction
I am an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the Hill/Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina and an Associate Member of the Department of Psychology.
Additional affiliations
July 2018 - present
University of Regina
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
September 2016 - July 2018
Yale University
Position
  • PostDoc Position
September 2010 - August 2016
University of Waterloo
Position
  • PhD Student

Publications

Publications (156)
Article
Full-text available
The 2016 US Presidential Election brought considerable attention to the phenomenon of “fake news”: entirely fabricated and often partisan content that is presented as factual. Here we demonstrate one mechanism that contributes to the believability of fake news: fluency via prior exposure. Using actual fake news headlines presented as they were seen...
Article
Full-text available
The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) is a widely used measure of the propensity to engage in analytic or deliberative reasoning in lieu of gut feelings or intuitions. CRT problems are unique because they reliably cue intuitive but incorrect responses and, therefore, appear simple among those who do poorly. By virtue of being comprised of so-called “...
Chapter
Full-text available
Dual-process theories formalize a salient feature of human cognition: We have the capacity to rapidly formulate answers to questions, but we sometimes engage in deliberate reasoning processes before responding. It does not require deliberative thought to respond to the question “what is your name”. It did, however, require some thinking to write th...
Article
Full-text available
The Dunning–Kruger effect refers to the observation that the incompetent are often ill-suited to recognize their incompetence. Here we investigated potential Dunning–Kruger effects in high-level reasoning and, in particular, focused on the relative effectiveness of metacognitive monitoring among particularly biased reasoners. Participants who made...
Article
Some theoretical models assume that a primary source of contention surrounding science belief is political and that partisan disagreement drives beliefs; other models focus on basic science knowledge and cognitive sophistication, arguing that they facilitate proscientific beliefs. To test these competing models, we identified a range of controversi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Unlike traditional media, social media typically provides quantified metrics of how many users have engaged with each piece of content. Some have argued that the presence of these cues promotes the spread of misinformation. Here we investigate the causal effect of social cues on users' engagement with social media posts. We conducted an experiment...
Article
Conspiracy theories tend to involve doubt and skepticism, but are conspiracy believers really more deliberative? We review recent research that investigates the relative roles of intuition and reason in conspiracy belief and find that the preponderance of evidence indicates that conspiracy belief is linked to an overreliance on intuition and a lack...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can generate text virtually indistinguish- able from text written by humans. A key question, then, is whether people believe news headlines generated by AI as much as news headlines generated by humans. AI is viewed as lacking human motives and emotions, suggesting that people might view news written by AI as more accur...
Article
Pro‐Kremlin disinformation campaigns have long targeted Ukraine. We investigate susceptibility to this pro‐Kremlin disinformation from a cognitive‐science perspective. Is greater analytic thinking associated with less belief in disinformation, as per classical theories of reasoning? Or does analytic thinking amplify motivated system 2 reasoning (or...
Article
Full-text available
Interventions that shift users attention toward the concept of accuracy represent a promising approach for reducing misinformation sharing online. We assess the replicability and generalizability of this accuracy prompt effect by meta-analyzing 20 experiments (with a total N = 26,863) completed by our group between 2017 and 2020. This internal meta...
Preprint
The spread of misinformation has become a central concern in American politics. Recent studies of social media sharing suggest that Republicans are considerably more likely to share fake news than Democrats. However, such inferences are confounded by the far greater supply of right-leaning fake news—Republicans may indeed be more prone to sharing f...
Preprint
What are the underlying cognitive mechanisms that support belief in conspiracies? Common dual-process perspectives suggest that deliberation helps people make more accurate decisions and decreases belief in conspiracy theories that have been proven wrong (therefore, bringing people closer to objective accuracy). However, evidence for this stance is...
Article
Full-text available
A meaningful portion of online misinformation sharing is likely attributable to Internet users failing to consider accuracy when deciding what to share. As a result, simply redirecting attention to the concept of accuracy can increase sharing discernment. Here we discuss the importance of accuracy and describe a limited-attention utility model that...
Preprint
The spread of misinformation online is a global problem that requires global solutions. To that end, we conducted an experiment in 16 countries across 6 continents (N = 33,480) to investigate predictors of susceptibility to misinformation and interventions to combat misinformation. In every country, participants with a more analytic cognitive style...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recent experiments have found that prompting people to think about accuracy reduces the sharing of misinformation. The cognitive mechanism that produces this effect, however, remains unclear. Do accuracy prompts cause people to "stop and think," increasing deliberation? Or do they change what people think about, drawing attention to accuracy? Since...
Article
Full-text available
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. However, research using such data is often purely observational, which limits its usefulness for identifying causal relationships. Here we review recent in...
Preprint
There is widespread concern about fake news and other misinformation circulating on social media. In particular, many argue that the context of social media itself may make people particularly susceptible to the influence of false claims. Here, we test that claim by asking whether simply considering whether to share news on social media reduces peo...
Article
Professional fact-checking, a prominent approach to combating misinformation, does not scale easily. Furthermore, some distrust fact-checkers because of alleged liberal bias. We explore a solution to these problems: using politically balanced groups of laypeople to identify misinformation at scale. Examining 207 news articles flagged for fact-check...
Preprint
Full-text available
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can generate text virtually indistinguishable from text written by humans. A key question, then, is whether people believe news generated by AI as much as news generated by humans. AI is viewed as lacking human motives and emotions, suggesting that people might view news written by AI as more accurate. By contrast, two...
Article
Full-text available
Coincident with the global rise in concern about the spread of misinformation on social media, there has been influx of behavioral research on so-called “fake news” (fabricated or false news headlines that are presented as if legitimate) and other forms of misinformation. These studies often present participants with news content that varies on rel...
Article
Full-text available
What are the psychological consequences of the increasingly politicized nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States relative to similar Western countries? In a two-wave study completed early (March) and later (December) in the pandemic, we found that polarization was greater in the United States ( N = 1,339) than in Canada ( N = 644) and t...
Preprint
Full-text available
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. However, research using such data is often purely observational, limiting its ability to identify causal relationships. Here we review recent innovations i...
Article
Full-text available
A major focus of current research is understanding why people fall for and share fake news on social media. While much research focuses on understanding the role of personality-level traits for those who share the news, such as partisanship and analytic thinking, characteristics of the articles themselves have not been studied. Across two pre-regis...
Article
Full-text available
Recent research suggests that shifting users’ attention to accuracy increases the quality of news they subsequently share online. Here we help develop this initial observation into a suite of deploy-able interventions for practitioners. We ask (i) how prior results generalize to other approaches for prompting users to consider accuracy, and (ii) fo...
Article
What are the psychological consequences of the increasingly politicized nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States relative to similar Western countries? In a two-wave study completed early (March) and later (December) in the pandemic, we found that polarization was greater in the U.S. (N=1,339) than in Canada (N=644) and the U.K. (N=1,28...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, there has been a great deal of concern about the proliferation of false and misleading news on social media1–4. Academics and practitioners alike have asked why people share such misinformation, and sought solutions to reduce the sharing of misinformation5–7. Here, we attempt to address both of these questions. First, we find that...
Article
When users on social media share content without considering its veracity, they may unwittingly be spreading misinformation. In this work, we investigate the design of lightweight interventions that nudge users to assess the accuracy of information as they share it. Such assessment may deter users from posting misinformation in the first place, and...
Preprint
Recent research suggests that shifting users’ attention to accuracy increases the quality of news they subsequently share online. Here we help develop this initial observation into a suite of deployable interventions for practitioners. We ask (i) how prior results generalize to other approaches for prompting users to consider accuracy, and (ii) for...
Article
Full-text available
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, poo...
Article
Full-text available
We investigate the relationship between individual differences in cognitive reflection and behavior on the social media platform Twitter, using a convenience sample of N = 1,901 individuals from Prolific. We find that people who score higher on the Cognitive Reflection Test—a widely used measure of reflective thinking—were more discerning in their...
Preprint
Full-text available
When users on social media share content without considering its veracity, they may unwittingly be spreading misinformation. In this work, we investigate the design of lightweight interventions that nudge users to assess the accuracy of information as they share it. Such assessment may deter users from posting misinformation in the first place, and...
Article
The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election saw an unprecedented number of false claims alleging election fraud and arguing that Donald Trump was the actual winner of the election. Here we report a sur-vey exploring belief in these false claims that was conducted three days after Biden was declared the winner. We find that a majority of Trump voters in our...
Preprint
Full-text available
Why is disbelief in anthropogenic climate change widespread despite broad scientific consensus to the contrary? A widely-held explanation involves politically motivated (“system 2”) reasoning: Rather than helping uncover truth, people use their reasoning abilities to protect their partisan identities and reject beliefs that threaten those identitie...
Preprint
Why is disbelief in anthropogenic climate change widespread despite broad scientific consensus to the contrary? A widely-held explanation involves politically motivated (“system 2”) reasoning: Rather than helping uncover truth, people use their reasoning abilities to protect their partisan identities and reject beliefs that threaten those identitie...
Article
Analytic and intuitive reasoning processes have been implicated as important determinants of belief in (or skepticism of) fake news. However, the underlying cognitive mechanisms that encourage endorsement of fake news remain unclear. The present study investigated cognitive decoupling/response inhibition and the potential role of conflict processin...
Article
A surprising finding from U.S. opinion surveys is that political disagreements tend to be greatest among the most cognitively sophisticated opposing partisans. Recent experiments suggest a hypothesis that could explain this pattern: cognitive sophistication magnifies politically biased processing of new information. However, the designs of these ex...
Article
Partisan disagreement over policy-relevant facts is a salient feature of contemporary American politics. Perhaps surprisingly, such disagreements are often the greatest among opposing partisans who are the most cognitively sophisticated. A prominent hypothesis for this phenomenon is that cognitive sophistication magnifies politically motivated reas...
Article
Full-text available
What is the role of emotion in susceptibility to believing fake news? Prior work on the psychology of misinformation has focused primarily on the extent to which reason and deliberation hinder versus help the formation of accurate beliefs. Several studies have suggested that people who engage in more reasoning are less likely to fall for fake news....
Preprint
Misinformation on social media has become a major focus of research and concern in recent years. Perhaps the most prominent approach to combating misinformation is the use of professional fact-checkers. This approach, however, is not scalable: Professional fact-checkers cannot possibly keep up with the volume of misinformation produced every day. F...
Article
A common inference in behavioral science is that people’s motivation to reach a politically congenial conclusion causally affects their reasoning—known as politically motivated reasoning. Often these inferences are made on the basis of data from randomized experiments that use one of two paradigmatic designs: Outcome Switching, in which identical m...
Article
Full-text available
Across two studies with more than 1,700 U.S. adults recruited online, we present evidence that people share false claims about COVID-19 partly because they simply fail to think sufficiently about whether or not the content is accurate when deciding what to share. In Study 1, participants were far worse at discerning between true and false content w...
Article
Full-text available
Background Individuals endorsing delusions exhibit multiple reasoning biases, including a bias toward lower decision thresholds, a bias toward gathering less data before forming conclusions, and a bias toward discounting evidence against one’s beliefs. Although these biases have been repeatedly associated with delusions, it remains unclear how they...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behaviour change and places significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help align human behaviour with the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts. Here...
Preprint
A major focus of current research is understanding why people fall for and share fake news on social media. While much research focuses on understanding the role of personality-level traits for those who share the news, such as partisanship and analytic thinking, characteristics of the articles themselves have not been studied. Across two pre-regis...
Article
2020 Owner/Author. How can social media platforms fight the spread of misinformation? One possibility is to use newsfeed algorithms to downrank content from sources that users rate as untrustworthy. But will laypeople be handicapped by motivated reasoning or lack of expertise, and thus unable to identify misinformation sites? And will they "game" t...
Preprint
The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to humanity. Yet there seems to be substantial variation across individuals in knowledge and concern about COVID-19, as well as in the willingness to change behaviors in the face of the pandemic. Here, we investigated the roles of political ideology and cognitive sophistication in explaining...
Article
Across two studies with more than 1,700 U.S. adults recruited online, we present evidence that people share false claims about COVID-19 partly because they simply fail to think sufficiently about whether or not the content is accurate when deciding what to share. In Study 1, participants were far worse at discerning between true and false content w...
Article
Full-text available
There is an increasing imperative for psychologists and other behavioral scientists to understand how people behave on social media. However, it is often very difficult to execute experimental research on actual social media platforms, or to link survey responses to online behavior in order to perform correlational analyses. Thus, there is a natura...
Preprint
Full-text available
Fact-checking organizations have reported that Donald Trump is prone to repeating patently false statements. Previous research has shown that repetition increases perceived truthfulness of even implausible statements (also known as the illusory truth effect). However, other research has shown that people may engage in motivated reasoning when inter...
Article
Full-text available
Survey experiments with nearly 7,000 Americans suggest that increasing the visibility of publishers is an ineffective, and perhaps even counterproductive, way to address misinformation on social media. Our findings underscore the importance of social media platforms and civil society organizations evaluating interventions experimentally rather than...
Preprint
Survey experiments with nearly 7,000 Americans suggest that increasing the visibility of publishers is an ineffective, and perhaps even counterproductive, way to address misinformation on social media. Our findings underscore the importance of social media platforms and civil society organizations evaluating interventions experimentally rather than...
Article
What role does deliberation play in susceptibility to political misinformation and "fake news"? The Motivated System 2 Reasoning (MS2R) account posits that deliberation causes people to fall for fake news, because reasoning facilitates identity-protective cognition and is therefore used to rationalize content that is consistent with one's political...
Preprint
A surprising finding from U.S. opinion surveys is that political disagreements tend to be greatest among the most cognitively sophisticated opposing partisans. Recent experiments suggest a hypothesis that could explain this pattern: Cognitive sophistication magnifies politically biased processing of new information. However, the designs of these ex...
Preprint
Various mechanisms have been proposed to explain why individuals hold pro- or anti-science beliefs. Some models focus on the role of political ideology and motivated reasoning, arguing that greater cognitive sophistication enables individuals to interpret evidence in an identity-consistent manner. Other models focus on the roles of basic science kn...
Preprint
Why is misleading partisan content believed and shared? An influential account posits that political partisanship pervasively biases reasoning, such that engaging in analytic thinking exacerbates motivated reasoning and, in turn, the acceptance of hyperpartisan content. Alternatively, it may be that susceptibility to hyperpartisan misinformation is...
Preprint
Full-text available
The spread of false and misleading news on social media is of great societal concern. Why do people share such content, and what can be done about it? In a first survey experiment (N=1,015), we demonstrate a dissociation between accuracy judgments and sharing intentions: even though true headlines are rated as much more accurate than false headline...
Article
p>Why is misleading partisan content believed and shared? An influential account posits that political partisanship pervasively biases reasoning, such that engaging in analytic thinking exacerbates motivated reasoning and, in turn, the acceptance of hyperpartisan content. Alternatively, it may be that susceptibility to hyperpartisan content is expl...
Preprint
A common inference in behavioral science is that people’s motivation to reach a politically congenial conclusion causally affects their reasoning—known as politically motivated reasoning. Often these inferences are made on the basis of data from randomized experiments that use one of two paradigmatic designs: Outcome Switching, in which identical m...
Preprint
Full-text available
Social media is playing an increasingly large role in everyday life. Thus, it is of both scientific and practical interest to understand behavior on social media platforms. Furthermore, social media provides a unique window for social scientists to deepen our understanding of the human mind. Here we investigate the relationship between individual d...
Preprint
What is the role of emotion in susceptibility to believing fake news? Prior work on the psychology of misinformation has focused primarily on the extent to which reason and deliberation hinder versus help the formation of accurate beliefs. Several studies have suggested that people who engage in more reasoning are less likely to fall for fake news....
Article
Repetition increases the likelihood that a statement will be judged as true. This illusory truth effect is well established; however, it has been argued that repetition will not affect belief in unambiguous statements. When individuals are faced with obviously true or false statements, repetition should have no impact. We report a simulation study...
Preprint
What is the role of emotion in susceptibility to believing fake news? Prior work on the psychology of misinformation has focused primarily on the extent to which reason and deliberation hinder versus help the formation of accurate beliefs. Several studies have suggested that people who engage in more reasoning are less likely to fall for fake news....
Article
Full-text available
What can be done to combat political misinformation? One prominent intervention involves attaching warnings to headlines of news stories that have been disputed by third-party fact-checkers. Here we demonstrate a hitherto unappreciated potential consequence of such a warning: an implied truth effect, whereby false headlines that fail to get tagged...
Article
Studies on human reasoning have long established that intuitions can bias inference and lead to violations of logical norms. Popular dual-process models, which characterize thinking as an interaction between intuitive (System 1) and deliberate (System 2) thought processes, have presented an appealing explanation for this observation. According to t...
Preprint
What role does deliberation play in susceptibility to political misinformation and “fake news”? The motivated account posits that people fall for fake news because they deliberate, as reasoning facilitates identity-protective cognition and is therefore used to rationalize content that is consistent with one’s political ideology. The classical accou...
Preprint
What role does deliberation play in susceptibility to political misinformation and “fake news”? The motivated account posits that people fall for fake news because they deliberate, as reasoning facilitates identity-protective cognition and is therefore used to rationalize content that is consistent with one’s political ideology. The classical accou...