ChapterPDF Available

When (Fake) News Feels True: Intuitions of Truth and the Acceptance and Correction of Misinformation



To evaluate whether something is likely to be true, people attend to whether it is compatible with other things they know, internally consistent and plausible, supported by evidence, accepted by others, and offered by a credible source. Each criterion can be evaluated by drawing on relevant details (an effortful analytic strategy) or by attending to the ease with which the claim can be processed (a less effortful intuitive strategy). Easy processing favors acceptance under all criteria, even when more careful processing would identify the claim as faulty. Intuitive assessments of truth have important implications for the role of social media and the correction of false claims. Social media are characterized by high message repetition, selective filtering and sharing, and easy-to-process formats, all of which foster acceptance of a claim as true. Popular correction strategies typically confront false claims with facts. This works while the facts are still highly accessible, but backfires after a delay because extensive thought about false claims during the correction phase increases fluent processing when the claim is re-encountered later. At that point, the facts are less accessible and fluent processing of the now familiar false claim can facilitate its acceptance.
When (Fake) News Feels True:
Intuitions of Truth and the Acceptance and Correction of Misinformation
Norbert Schwarz
Madeline Jalbert
University of Southern California
Version: Sep 2019
Schwarz, N., & Jalbert, M. (2020). When (fake) news feels true: Intuitions of truth and the
acceptance and correction of misinformation. Greifeneder, R., Jaffé, M., Newman, E.J., &
Schwarz, N. (Eds.) (in press). The psychology of fake news: Accepting, sharing, and correcting
misinformation. London, UK: Routledge.
Author Note
Address correspondence to Norbert Schwarz, Dept. of Psychology, University of Southern
California, 3620 S. McClintock Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061, USA; email: Preparation of this chapter was supported by the Linnie and
Michael Katz Endowed Research Fellowship Fund through a fellowship to the second author.
To evaluate whether something is likely to be true, people attend to whether it is compatible with other
things they know, internally consistent and plausible, supported by evidence, accepted by others, and offered
by a credible source. Each criterion can be evaluated by drawing on relevant details (an effortful analytic
strategy) or by attending to the ease with which the claim can be processed (a less effortful intuitive
strategy). Easy processing favors acceptance under all criteria, even when more careful processing would
identify the claim as faulty. Intuitive assessments of truth have important implications for the role of social
media and the correction of false claims. Social media are characterized by high message repetition,
selective filtering and sharing, and easy-to-process formats, all of which foster acceptance of a claim as true.
Popular correction strategies typically confront false claims with facts. This works while the facts are still
highly accessible, but backfires after a delay because extensive thought about false claims during the
correction phase increases fluent processing when the claim is re-encountered later. At that point, the facts
are less accessible and fluent processing of the now familiar false claim can facilitate its acceptance. <194
Keywords: fluency; truth; intuitive judgments
When (Fake) News Feels True:
Intuitions of Truth and the Acceptance and Correction of Misinformation
An analysis of 2.8 million episodes of news sharing on Twitter found that 59% of the news items
were shared without having been opened (Gabielkov, Ramachandran, Chaintreau, & Legout, 2016).
Apparently, 6 out of 10 readers found the headline compelling enough to share the piece without reading it.
In this chapter, we review what makes a message “feel” true, even before we have considered its content in
any detail. We first discuss the basic psychological processes involved in assessing the truth of a message
and illustrate them with select experiments. Subsequently, we address the implications of these processes
for information sharing on social media and the correction of misinformation.
Evaluating Truth
While retweeting something without reading it may strike many readers as surprising and
irresponsible, it is not distinctly different from how we communicate in everyday life. In daily conversations
we proceed on the tacit assumption that the speaker is a cooperative communicator whose contributions are
relevant to the ongoing conversation, truthful, informative, and clear (Grice, 1975; Sperber & Wilson, 1986).
Unless we have reason to doubt that the speaker observes these tacit rules of conversational conduct, we
accept the content of the utterance without much questioning and treat it as part of the common ground of
the conversation. These conversational processes contribute to many errors in human judgment (for reviews,
see Schwarz, 1994, 1996). Some research even suggests that comprehension of a statement requires at least
temporary acceptance of its truth (Gilbert, 1991) before it can be checked against relevant evidence.
While suspension of belief is possible (Hasson, Simmons, & Todorov, 2005; Schul, Mayo, &
Burnstein, 2008), it requires implausibility of the message or distrust at the time it is received. Hence, the
deck is usually stacked in favor of accepting information rather than rejecting it, provided there are no salient
markers that call the speaker’s cooperativeness into question. Going beyond the default of information
acceptance requires motivation and cognitive resources, which we are most likely to invest when the topic
is important to us and there are few competing demands and distractions. In the absence of these conditions,
information is likely to be accepted and sometimes passed on without much scrutiny.
<Table 1>
When people do evaluate whether information is likely to be true, they typically consider some (but
rarely all) of the five criteria shown in Table 1 (Schwarz, 2015). Is the claim compatible with other things
they know? Is it internally consistent and coherent? Does it come from a trustworthy source? Do other
people agree with it? Is there much evidence to support it? Each of these criteria is sensible and does, indeed,
bear on the likely truth of a message. These criteria can be assessed by considering relevant knowledge,
which is a relatively slow and effortful process and may require extensive information search. The same
criteria can also be assessed by relying on one’s intuitive response, which is faster and less taxing. When
the initial intuitive response suggests that something may be wrong, people are likely to turn to the more
effortful analysis, provided time and circumstances allow for it. This makes initial intuitive assessments of
truth a key gatekeeper for whether people will further engage with the message using a critical eye or just
nod along in agreement. These assumptions are compatible with a long history of research in social (e.g.,
Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and cognitive (e.g., Kahneman, 2011; Stanovich, 1999) psychology, where the
slow and effortful strategy is often referred to as “analytic”, “systematic” or “system 2” processing and the
fast and intuitive strategy as “intuitive”, “heuristic” or “system 1” processing.
Key to intuitive assessments of truth is the ease with which the message can be processed. For
example, when something is incompatible with other things we know or the story we are told is incoherent,
we stumble and backtrack to make sure we understood it correctly (Johnson-Laird, 2012; Winkielman,
Huber, Kavanagh, & Schwarz, 2012). This makes the subjective experience of ease of processing, often
referred to as processing fluency, a (fallible) indicator of whether the message may have a problem that
needs closer attention. Similar considerations apply to the other truth criteria, as discussed below.
Throughout, difficult processing marks the message for closer scrutiny, whereas easy processing favors
message acceptance.
If ease or difficulty of processing was solely determined by attributes substantively associated with
whether a message is likely to be true, relying on one’s processing experience would not pose a major
problem. However, messages can be easy or difficult to process for many reasons reading may be slow
because the message is incoherent (a relevant criterion) or because the print font is hard to read (which is
unrelated to truth). Because people are more sensitive to their subjective experiences than to the source of
those experiences (Schwarz, 2012), many incidental influences that have no bearing on the substance of the
message can influence its perceived truth. We discuss these incidental influences and their role in media
consumption after reviewing the five dominant truth criteria. As will become apparent, when thoughts flow
smoothly, people are likely to agree without much critical analysis (see also Oyserman & Dawson, this
The “Big Five” of truth judgment: Analytic and intuitive processes
A claim is more likely to be accepted as true when it is compatible with other things one knows than
when it is at odds with other knowledge. Compatibility can be assessed analytically by checking the
information against one’s knowledge, which requires motivation and time (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). A less
demanding indicator is provided by one’s metacognitive experiences and affective responses. When
something is inconsistent with existing beliefs, people tend to stumble -- they take longer to read it, and
have trouble processing it (e.g., Taber & Lodge, 2006; Winkielman et al., 2012). Moreover, information
that is inconsistent with one’s beliefs produces a negative affective response, as shown in research on
cognitive consistency (Festinger, 1957; Gawronski & Strack, 2012). Accordingly, one’s processing
experiences and affective responses can serve as (fallible) indicators of whether a proposition is consistent
with other things one believes.
A given claim is also more likely to be accepted as true when it fits a broader story that lends
coherence to its individual elements, as observed in research on mental models (for a review, see Johnson-
Laird, 2012) and analyses of jury decision making (Pennington & Hastie, 1993). Coherence can be
determined through a systematic analysis of the relationships between different pieces of declarative
information. Alternatively, it can be assessed by attending to one’s processing experience: coherent stories
are easier to process than stories with internal contradictions (Johnson-Laird, 2012), which makes ease of
processing a (fallible) indicator of coherence. Indeed, people draw on their fluency experience when they
evaluate how well things “go together” (Topolinski, 2012), as observed in judgments of semantic coherence
(Topolinski & Strack, 2008, 2009) and syllogistic reasoning (Morsanyi & Handley, 2012).
Information is also more likely to be accepted as true when it comes from a credible and trustworthy
source. As decades of persuasion research illustrates, evaluations of source credibility can be based on
declarative information that bears, for example, on the communicator’s expertise, education, achievement,
or institutional affiliation and the presence or absence of conflicting interests (for reviews, see Eagly &
Chaiken, 1993; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). However, credibility judgments can also be based on feelings of
familiarity. In daily life, people trust familiar others more than strangers (Luhmann, 1979), from personal
interactions to e-commerce (Gefen, 2000). Familiarity resulting from previous encounters or even just
repeatedly seeing pictures of a face is sufficient to increase perceptions of honesty and sincerity as well as
agreement with what the person says (Brown, Brown, & Zoccoli, 2002; Weisbuch & Mackie, 2009).
Similarly, the mere repetition of a name can make an unknown name seem familiar, making its bearer
“famous overnight” (Jacoby, Woloshyn, & Kelley, 1989), which may also increase perceived expertise.
Familiar people are also easier to recognize and remember, and their names become easier to pronounce
with repeated encounters. Variables that influence the ease with which source information can be processed
can therefore enhance the perceived credibility of the source. Indeed, a given claim is more likely to be
judged true when the name of its source is easy to pronounce (Newman et al., 2014).
To assess the likely truth of a claim, people also consider whether others believe it if many people
agree, there’s probably something to it. This social consensus (Festinger, 1954) criterion is central to many
social influence processes and is sometimes referred to as the principle of “social proof(Cialdini, 2009).
As numerous studies indicated, people are more confident in their beliefs if they are shared by others
(Newcomb, 1943; Visser & Mirabile, 2004), more likely to endorse a message if many others have done so
as well (Cialdini, 2009), and place more trust in what they remember if others remember it similarly (Harris
& Hahn, 2009; Ross, Buehler, & Karr, 1998). Conversely, perceiving dissent reliably undermines message
acceptance, which makes reports on real or fabricated controversies an efficient strategy for swaying public
opinion (Lewandowsky, Ecker, Seifert, Schwarz, & Cook, 2012; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Vaughan,
2013). To assess the extent of consensus, people can consult public opinion polls or ask their friends.
Alternatively, they may rely on how “familiar” the belief feels after all, one should have encountered
popular beliefs, shared by many, more frequently than unpopular beliefs, held by few. Empirically, familiar
information is easier to read, understand, and remember than unfamiliar information, which makes ease of
processing a (fallible) indicator of familiarity and popularity. Accordingly, incidental changes in ease of
processing can influence perceived consensus.
Finally, people’s confidence in a belief increases with the amount of supporting evidence. Support
can be assessed through an external search, as in a scientific literature review or through recall of pertinent
information from memory; in either case, confidence increases with the amount of supportive information.
Alternatively, support can be gauged from how easy it is to find supportive evidencethe more evidence
there is, the easier it should be to find some (in memory or in the literature). This lay theory is at the heart
of Tversky and Kahneman’s (1973) availability heuristic. Unfortunately, this heuristic can be misleading.
If the only supportive piece of information comes to mind easily because it has been endlessly repeated or
is very vivid and memorable, we may erroneously conclude that support is strong. Moreover, attention to
what comes to mind and attention to the ease with which it does so will often lead to different conclusions.
On the one hand, reliance on the substantive arguments brought to mind results in higher confidence the
more arguments one retrieves or generates. On the other hand, reliance on ease of recall results in lower
confidence the more arguments one tries to come up with because finding many arguments is difficult,
which suggests that there probably aren’t many (Haddock, Rothman, Reber, & Schwarz, 1999; for reviews,
see Schwarz, 1998; Schwarz & Vaughn, 2002).
Regardless of which truth criteria people draw on, easily processed information enjoys an advantage
over information that is difficult to process: it feels more familiar, more compatible with one’s beliefs, more
internally consistent, more widely held, better supported, and more likely to have come from a credible
source. These inferences reflect that familiar, frequently encountered information and information that is
coherent and compatible with one’s knowledge is indeed easier to process than information that is not.
Hence, ease of processing provides heuristically useful -- but fallible -- information for assessing how well
a claim meets major truth criteria.
Making claims “feel” true
So far, our discussion highlighted that ease or difficulty of processing can result both from variables
that are meaningfully related to key criteria of truth or from incidental influences. This is important for two
reasons. From a research perspective, it allows researchers to manipulate processing fluency in ways that
are independent of substantive characteristics of a message and its source. From an applied perspective, it
highlights that claims can “feel” true merely because they are easy to process, which provides many
opportunities for manipulation. Next, we review some of the most important variables that influence the
ease or difficulty of message processing.
Repetition. Demagogues have known for millennia that truth can be created through frequent
repetition of a lie as Hitler put it, “Propaganda must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over
and over again” (cited in Toland, 1976, p. 221). Empirical research supports demagogues’ intuition.
Studying war time rumors, Allport and Lepkin (1945) found that the best predictor of whether people
believed a rumor was the number of times they were exposed to it. Testing this observation in the laboratory,
Hasher and colleagues (1977) asked participants to rate their confidence that each of 60 statements was true.
Some statements were factually correct (e.g., “Lithium is the lightest of all metals”), whereas others were
not (e.g., “The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1947”). Participants provided their ratings on
three occasions, each two weeks apart. Across these sessions, some statements were repeated once or twice,
whereas others were not, resulting in one, two, or three exposures. As expected, participants were more
confident that a given statement was true the more often they had seen it, independent of whether it was
factually true or false. Numerous follow-up studies confirmed the power of repetition across many content
domains, from trivia statements (e.g., Bacon, 1979) to marketing claims (e.g., Hawkins & Hoch, 1992) and
political beliefs (e.g., Arkes, Hackett, & Boehm, 1989), with the time delay between exposure and judgment
ranging from minutes (e.g., Begg & Armour, 1991) to months (Brown & Nix, 1996). Dechêne and
colleagues (2010) provide a comprehensive meta-analysis of this “illusory truth” effect.
The influence of repetition is most pronounced for claims that people feel uncertain about, but is
also observed when more diagnostic information about the claims is available (Fazio, Rand, & Pennycook,
2019; Unkelbach & Greifeneder, 2018). Worse, repetition even increases agreement among people who
actually know that the claim is false -- if only they thought about it (Fazio, Brashier, Payne, & Marsh, 2015).
For example, repeating the statement “The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth” increased its
acceptance even among people who knew that the Pacific is larger. When the repeated statement felt
familiar, they nodded along without checking it against their knowledge. Even warning people that some of
the claims they will be shown are false does not eliminate the effect, although it attenuates its size. More
importantly, warnings only attenuate the influence of repetition when they precede exposure to the claims -
- warning people after they have seen the claims has no discernable influence (Jalbert, Newman, & Schwarz,
Repetition also increases perceived social consensus, that is, the perception that a belief is shared
by many others. Weaver and colleagues (2007) had participants read opinion statements purportedly taken
from a group discussion in which a given opinion was presented once or thrice. Each opinion statement was
attributed to a group member. Not surprisingly, participants assumed that more people shared the opinion
when they read it three times from three different group members (72%) than when they read it only once
(57%). However, reading the opinion three times from the same group member was almost as influential,
resulting in a consensus estimate of 67% -- apparently, the single repetitive source sounded like a chorus.
Later studies showed that people trust an eyewitness report more the more often it is repeated, even when
all repetitions come from the same single witness (Foster, Huthwaite, Yesberg, Garry, & Loftus, 2012).
Similarly, newspaper readers are more confident in the accuracy of a report when the same message is
presented in several newspapers, even if all newspapers solely rely on the same single interview with the
same speaker (Yousif, Aboody, & Keil, 2019). Such findings suggest that frequent repetition of the same
soundbite in TV news can give the message a familiarity that increases its perceived popularity and truth.
This concern also applies to social media, where the same message keeps showing up as friends and friends
of friends like it and repost it, resulting in many exposures within a network.
Beyond repetition. Despite its popularity with past and present demagogues, repetition is just one
of many variables that can facilitate easy processing of a statement, making the statement appear more
popular, credible, and true. Next, we review some of these other variables.
Reber and Schwarz (1999) manipulated the ease of reading through the color contrast of the print
font. Depending on condition, some statements (e.g., “Orsono is a city in Chile”) were easy to read due to
high color contrast (e.g., dark blue print on a white background), whereas others were difficult to read due
to low color contrast (e.g., light blue print on a white background). As predicted, the same statement was
more likely to be judged true when it was easy rather than difficult to read. Similarly, the readability of print
fonts can influence intuitive assessments of truthfulness and the extent to which we closely scrutinize a
message. For example, when asked, “How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?” most
people answer “2” even though they know that the biblical actor was Noah, not Moses. Song and Schwarz
(2008) presented this Moses question (taken from Erickson & Mattson, 1981) in one of the fonts shown in
Figure 1. They warned participants that some of the questions may be misleading, in which case they should
answer “Can’t say”. When the Moses question was presented in the easy to read black Arial font, 88%
failed to notice a problem and answered “2”, whereas only 53% did so when the question was presented in
the more difficult to read grey Brush font.
<Figure 1>
Other variables that influence ease of processing have similar effects. For example, handwritten
essays are more compelling when the handwriting is easy to read (Greifeneder, et al., 2010) and so are
spoken messages when the speaker’s accent is easy to understand (Levy-Ari & Keysar, 2010). Similarly,
the same conference talk is less impressive when its video recording has low audio quality, and a poor phone
connection during a researcher’s radio interview can impair listeners’ impression of the quality of her
research program (Newman & Schwarz, 2018). People also find a statement to be more true when presented
with a version of it that rhymes rather than one that doesn’t, even when the two versions are substantively
equivalent (McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000). Even a photo without any probative value can increase
acceptance of a statement, provided the photo makes it easier to imagine what the statement is about (for a
review, see Newman & Zhang, this volume).
Merely having a name that is easy to pronounce is sufficient to endow the person with higher
credibility and trustworthiness. For example, consumers trust an online seller more when the seller’s eBay
username is easy to pronounce -- they are more likely to believe that the product will live up to the seller’s
promises and that the seller will honor the advertised return policy (Silva, Chrobot, Newman, Schwarz, &
Topolinski, 2017). Similarly, the same claim is more likely to be accepted as true when the name of its
source is easy to pronounce (Newman et al., 2014).
As this selective review indicates, any variable that can influence ease of processing can also
influence judgments of truth. This is the case because people are very sensitive to their processing
experience but insensitive to where this experience comes from. When their attention is directed to the
incidental source of their experience, the informational value of the experienced ease or difficulty is
undermined and its influence attenuated or eliminated, as predicted by feelings-as-information theory (for
reviews, see Schwarz, 2012, 2018).
Analytic vs. intuitive processing. As in other domains of judgment, people are more likely to invest
the time and effort needed for careful information processing when they are sufficiently motivated and have
the time and opportunity to do so (for reviews, see Greifeneder, Bless, & Pham, 2011; Greifeneder &
Schwarz, 2014). One may hope that this favors careful processing whenever the issue is important. However,
this optimism may not be warranted. In the course of everyday life, messages about issues we consider
personally important may reach us when we have other things on our minds and lack the opportunity to
engage with them. Over repeated encounters, such messages may become familiar and fluent enough to
escape closer scrutiny even when the situation would allow us to engage with them. As reviewed above,
telling recipients that some of the information shown to them is false is only protective when the warning
precedes the first exposure; later warnings show little effect (Jalbert et al., 2019). Similarly, the motivation
and opportunity to examine a message critically may exert only a limited influence once the message has
been encoded (for a review, see Lewandowsky et al., 2012).
Implications for Social Media
The dynamics of truth judgment have important implications for the acceptance and correction of
false information in the real world. Beginning with the proliferation of cable TV and talk radio, citizens in
democracies enjoyed ever more opportunities to selectively expose themselves to media that fit their
worldview. The advent of social media is the latest step in this development and, in many ways, one might
think that social media were designed to make questionable messages seem true. To begin with, most social
media messages are short, written in simple language, and presented in optics that are easy to read, which
satisfies many of the technical prerequisites for easy processing. These fluent messages are posted by one’s
friends, a credible source. The content they post is usually compatible with one’s own beliefs, given the
similarity of opinions and values in friendship networks (for a review of network homophily, see
McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). Posted messages are liked by other friends, thus confirming
social consensus, and reposted, thus ensuring multiple repeated exposures. With each exposure, processing
becomes easier and perceptions of social consensus, coherence and compatibility increase. Comments and
related posts provide additional supporting evidence and further enhance familiarity. At the same time, the
accumulating likes and reposts ensure that the filtering mechanism of the feed makes exposure to opposing
information less and less likely. The Wall Street Journal’s Blue Feed/Red Feed” site illustrates how
Facebook’s filtering mechanism resulted in profoundly different news feeds for liberals and conservatives
during the 2016 elections in the United States and a growing body of research traces how opinion homophily
within networks contributes to controversies between networks (Del Vicario et al., 2016; Gargiulo &
Gandica, 2017). The observed narrowing of recipientsinformation diet on social media is enhanced through
the personalization of internet offerings outside of social media, where internet providers and search engines
track users’ interests to tailor information delivery (Pariser, 2011).
These processes not only increase the acceptance of claims that feel increasingly familiar and
compatible with what else one knows, but also foster a high sense of expertise and confidence. After all,
much of what one sees in one’s feed is familiar, which suggests that one knows most of what there is to
know about the topic. It has also been seen without much opposing evidence, suggesting that the arguments
are undisputed. This enhances what Ross and Ward (1996) described as “naïve realism the belief that the
world is the way I see it and whoever disagrees is either ill-informed (which motivates persuasion efforts)
or ill-intentioned (if persuasion fails). These beliefs further contribute to polarization and the mutual
attribution of malevolence.
Implications for the Correction of Misinformation
That people can arrive at judgments of truth by relying more on analytic or more on intuitive
strategies poses a major challenge for public information campaigns aimed at correcting false beliefs.
Extensive research in education shows that students’ misconceptions can be corrected by confronting them
with correct information, showing students step by step why one idea is wrong and another one right,
preferably repeating this process multiple times (for reviews, see Vosniadou, 2008). This works best when
the recipient wants to acquire the correct information and is sufficiently motivated to pay attention, think
through the issues, and remember the new insights (for a review, see Sinatra & Pintrich, 2003). Public
information campaigns often follow these procedures by confronting the “myths” with “facts”, consistent
with content-focused theories of message learning (McQuail, 2000; Rice & Atkin, 2001). While this works
in the classroom, with motivated recipients, sufficient time, and the benefit of incentives, the reality of
public information campaigns is starkly different. For any given topic, only a small segment of the
population will care enough to engage with the details; most are likely to notice the message only in passing,
if at all, and will process it superficially while doing something else. Even if they remember the corrective
message as intended when tested immediately, it may fade quickly from memory.
Under such conditions, repeating false information in order to correct it may mostly succeed in
spreading the false information to disinterested recipients who may otherwise never have encountered it.
Not having processed the message in detail, they may now find the false claims a bit more familiar and
easier to process when they hear or see them again. This way, the attempt to correct the erroneous beliefs
of a few may prepare numerous others to accept those beliefs through repeated exposure (for a review, see
Schwarz, Sanna, Skurnik, & Yoon, 2007). For example, Skurnik, Yoon, Park, and Schwarz (2005)
exposed older and younger adults once or thrice to product statements like, “Shark cartilage is good for your
arthritis” and these statements were explicitly marked as “true” or “false.” When tested immediately, the
corrections seemed successful -- all participants were less likely to accept a statement as true the more often
they were told that it is false. This is the hoped-for success and most studies stop at this point. But after a
three-day delay, repeated warnings backfired and older adults were now more likely to consider a statement
“true”, the more often they had been explicitly told that it is false. Presumably, the recipients could no longer
recall whether the statement had been originally marked as true or false, but still experienced repeated
statements as easier to process and more familiar, which made the statements “feel” true.
Even exposing people to only true information can make it more likely that they accept a false
version of that information as time passes. Garcia-Marques and colleagues (2015) presented participants
with ambiguous statements (e.g., “crocodiles sleep with their eyes closed”) and later asked them to rate the
truth of statements that were either identical to those previously seen or that directly contradicted them (e.g.,
“crocodiles sleep with their eyes open”). When participants made these judgements immediately, they rated
repeated identical statements as more true, and contradicting statements as less true, than novel statements,
which they had not seen before. One week later, however, identical as well as contradicting statements
seemed more true than novel statements. Put simply, as long as the delay is short enough, people can recall
the exact information they just saw and reject the opposite. As time passes, however, the details get lost and
contradicting information feels more familiar than information one has never heard of yes, there was
something about crocodiles and their eyes, so that’s probably what it was.
As time passes, people may even infer the credibility of the initial source from the confidence with
which they hold the belief. For example, Fragale and Heath (2004) exposed participants two or five times
to statements like, “The wax used to line Cup-o-Noodles cups has been shown to cause cancer in rats.” Next,
participants learned that some statements were taken from the National Enquirer (a low credibility source)
and some from Consumer Reports (a high credibility source) and had to assign the statements to their likely
sources. The more often participants had heard a statement, the more likely they were to attribute it to
Consumer Reports rather than the National Enquirer. In short, frequent exposure not only increases the
apparent truth of a statement, it also increases the belief that the statement came from a trustworthy source.
Similarly, well-intentioned efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and the Los Angeles Times to debunk
a rumor about “flesh-eating bananas” morphed into the belief that the Los Angeles Times had warned people
not to eat those dangerous bananas, thus reinforcing the rumor (Emery, 2000). Such errors in source
attribution increase the likelihood that people convey the information to others, who themselves are more
likely to accept (and spread) it, given its alleged credible source (Rosnow & Fine, 1976).
Such findings illustrate that attempts to correct misinformation can backfire when they focus solely
on message content at the expense of the message’s impact on recipients’ later processing experience. Even
when a corrective message succeeds in changing the beliefs of recipients who deeply care about the topic
and process the message with sufficient attention, it may spread the false information to many others who
don’t care about the topic. Unfortunately, the latter are likely to outnumber the former. In those cases, the
successful correction of a few false believers may come at the cost of misleading many bystanders. To avoid
such backfire effects, it will usually be safer to refrain from any reiteration of false information and to focus
solely on the facts. The more the facts become familiar and fluent, the more likely it is that they will be
accepted as true and serve as the basis of judgments and decisions (Lewandowsky et al., 2012; Schwarz et
al., 2007, 2016).
Unfortunately, the truth is usually more complicated than false stories, which often involve
considerable simplification. This puts the truth at a disadvantage because it is harder to process, understand,
and remember. It is therefore important to present true information in ways that facilitate its fluent
processing. This requires clear step-by-step exposition and the avoidance of jargon. It also helps to pay close
attention to incidental influences on ease of processing. Making the font easy to read and the speaker’s
pronunciation easy to understand, adding photos and repeating key points are all techniques that should not
be left to those who want to mislead they can also give truth a helping hand and should be used.
Finally, at the individual level, the best protection against the influence of misinformation is
skepticism at the time the information is first encountered (for a review, see Lewandowsky et al., 2012).
Once people have processed the false information, warnings exert little influence. In addition to explicit
warnings, general feelings of suspicion and distrust increase message scrutiny and decrease message
acceptance (for reviews, see Mayo, 2017; Schwarz & Lee, 2019). Explicit warnings as well as suspicion
and distrust entail that the communicator may not adhere to the norms of cooperative conversational conduct
(Grice, 1975), thus flagging the message for closer scrutiny. Unfortunately, in a polarized public opinion
climate, merely realizing that a message supports the “other” side is itself likely to elicit suspicion and
distrust, further impairing correction attempts in polarized contexts.
Allport, F. H., & Lepkin, M. (1945). Wartime rumors of waste and special privilege: Why some
people believe them. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 40, 336.
Arkes, H. R., Hackett, C., & Boehm, L. (1989). The generality of the relation between familiarity
and judged validity. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 2, 8194.
Bacon, F. T. (1979). Credibility of repeated statements: Memory for trivia. Journal of Experimental
Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 5, 241252.
Begg, I., & Armour, V. (1991). Repetition and the ring of truth: Biasing comments. Canadian
Journal of Behavioural Science, 23, 195213.
Brown, A. S., & Nix, L. A. (1996). Turning lies into truths: Referential validation of falsehoods.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22, 10881100.
Brown, A. S., Brown, L. A., & Zoccoli, S. L. (2002). Repetition-based credibility enhancement of
unfamiliar faces. The American Journal of Psychology, 115, 199-2009.
Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. Boston: Pearson Education.
Dechêne, A., Stahl, C., Hansen, J., & Wänke, M. (2010). The truth about the truth: A meta-analytic
review of the truth effect. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 238 257.
Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., ... & Quattrociocchi, W.
(2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 113(3), 554-559.
Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace
Emery, D. (2000, February 23). The great banana scare of 2000. Retrieved May 24, 2002, from library/weekly/aa022302a.htm
Erickson, T. D., & Mattson, M. E. (1981). From words to meaning: A semantic illusion. Journal
of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 20, 540551.
Fazio, L. K., Brashier, N. M., Payne, B. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2015). Knowledge does not protect
against illusory truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(5), 993-1002
Fazio, L.K., Rand, D.G., & Pennycook, G. (2019). Repetition increases perceived truth equally for
plausible and implausible statements. PsyArXiv.
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 123-146.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.
Foster, J. L., Huthwaite, T., Yesberg, J.A., Garry, M., & Loftus, E. (2012). Repetition, not number
of sources, increases both susceptibility to misinformation and confidence in the accuracy
of eyewitnesses. Acta Psychologica, 139, 320-326.
Fragale, A. R., & Heath, C. (2004). Evolving information credentials: The (mis)attribution of
believable facts to credible sources. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 225
Gabielkov, M., Ramachandran, A., Chaintreau, A., Legout, A. (2016). Social Clicks: What and
Who Gets Read on Twitter? ACM SIGMETRICS Performance Evaluation Review, 44, 179-
192. DOI:
Garcia-Marques, T. Mackie, D.M, Claypool, H.M, & Garcia-Marques, L. (2004). Positivity can
cue familiarity, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1-9.
Gargiulo, F. & Gandica. Y. (2017). The role of homophily in the emergence of opinion
controversies. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 20(3), 8. -- Doi:
10.18564/jasss.3448 Url:
Gawronski, B., & Strack, F. (Eds.) (2012). Cognitive consistency: A fundamental principle in social
cognition. New York: Guilford Press.
Gefen, D. (2000). E-commerce: The role of familiarity and trust. Omega, 28, 725-737.
Gilbert, D.T. (1991). How mental systems believe. American Psychologist, 46, 107-119.
Greifeneder, R., Alt, A., Bottenberg, K., Seele, T., Zelt, S., & Wagener, D. (2010). On writing
legibly: Processing fluency systematically biases evaluations of handwritten material.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 230-237.
Greifeneder, R., Bless, H., & Pham, M.T. (2011). When do people rely on cognitive and affective
feelings in judgment? A review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 107-141.
Greifeneder, R., & Schwarz, N. (2014). Metacognitive processes and subjective experience.
Sherman, J. W., Gawronski, B., & Trope, Y. (Eds.). Dual-process theories of the social
mind (pp. 314-327). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole, & J.L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and
semantics, Vol.3: Speech acts (pp. 41 - 58). New York: Academic Press.
Haddock, G., Rothman, A.J., Reber, R., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Forming judgments of attitude
certainty, importance, and intensity: The role of subjective experiences. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 771-782.
Harris, A. J. L., & Hahn, U. (2009). Bayesian rationality in evaluating multiple testimonies:
Incorporating the role of coherence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning,
Memory, and Cognition, 35, 1366-1372.
Hasher, L., Goldstein, D., & Toppino, T. (1977). Frequency and the conference of referential
validity. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 16, 107112.
Hasson, U., Simmons, J. P., & Todorov, A. (2005). Believe it or not: On the possibility of
suspending belief. Psychological Science, 16, 566-571.
Hawkins, S. A., & Hoch, S. J. (1992). Low-involvement learning: Memory without evaluation.
Journal of Consumer Research, 19, 212225.
Jacoby, L. L., Woloshyn, V., & Kelley, C. M. (1989). Becoming famous without being recognized:
Unconscious influences of memory produced by dividing attention. Journal of
Experimental Psychology: General, 118, 115-125.
Jalbert, M., Newman, E.J., & Schwarz, N. (2019). Only half of what I tell you is true: How
experimental procedures lead to an underestimation of the truth effect. Manuscript under
Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2012). Mental models and consistency. In B. Gawronski & F. Strack (Eds.),
Cognitive consistency: A fundamental principle in social cognition (pp. 225-243). New
York: Guilford Press.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Macmillan.
Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U. K. H., Seifert, C., Schwarz, N., & Cook, J. (2012). Misinformation
and its correction: Continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychological Science in
the Public Interest, 13, 106-131.
Lewandowsky, S., Gignac, G.E., & Vaughan, S. (2013). The pivotal role of perceived scientific
consensus in acceptance of science. Nature Climate Change, 3, 399404.
Levy-Ari, S. & Keysar, B. (2010). Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of
accent on credibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 1093-1096.
Luhmann, N. (1979). Trust and power. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
Mayo, R. (2017). Cognition is a matter of trust: Distrust tunes cognitive processes. European
Review of Social Psychology, 26, 283-327.
McGlone, M. S., & Tofighbakhsh, J. (2000). Birds of a feather flock conjointly (?): Rhyme as
reason in aphorisms. Psychological Science, 11, 424-428.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook. J.M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social
networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415444
McQuail, D. (2000). McQuail’s mass communication theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Morsanyi, K., & Handley, S. J. (2012). Logic feels so goodI like it! Evidence for intuitive
detection of logicality in syllogistic reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38, 596-616.
Newcomb, T. M. (1943). Personality and social change. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Newman, E. J., Sanson, M., Miller, E. K., Quigley-McBride, A., Foster, J. L., Bernstein, D. M., &
Garry, M. (2014). People with easier to pronounce names promote truthiness of claims.
PLOSone, 9(2), 10.1371/journal.pone.0088671
Newman, E.J., & Schwarz, N. (2018). Good sound, good research: How audio quality influences
perceptions of the researcher and research. Science Communication, 40(2), 246257.
Newman, E.J., & Zhang, L. (in press). Truthiness: How nonprobative photos shape beliefs. In R.
Greifeneder, M. Jaffé, E.J. Newman, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), The psychology of fake news: Accepting,
sharing, and correcting misinformation (pp. XX-XX). London, UK: Routledge.
Oyserman D., & Dawson, A. (in press). Your fake news, our fakes: Identity-based motivation shapes what
we believe, share, and accept. In R. Greifeneder, M. Jaffé, E.J. Newman, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), The
psychology of fake news: Accepting, sharing, and correcting misinformation (pp. XX-XX. London,
UK: Routledge.
Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and
how the think. New York: Penguin Books.
Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1993). The Story Model for juror decision making. In R. Hastie (Ed.),
Inside the juror (pp. 192-223). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. Advances
in Experimental Social Psychology, 19, 123-205.
Reber, R., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Effects of perceptual fluency on judgments of truth.
Consciousness and Cognition, 8, 338342.
Ross, L., & Ward, A. (1996). Naive realism in everyday life: implications for social conflict and
misunderstanding. In E.S. Reed, E. Turiel, & T. T. (Eds.), Values and knowledge (pp. 103
135). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Ross, M., Buehler, R., & Karr, J. W. (1998). Assessing the accuracy of conflicting autobiographical
memories. Memory and Cognition, 26, 12331244.
Rice, R. & Atkin, C. (Eds.) (2001). Public communication campaigns (3rd ed.). Newbury Park,
CA: Sage.
Rosnow, R. L., & Fine, G. A. (1976). Rumor and gossip: The social psychology of hearsay. New
York: Elsevier.
Schul, Y., Mayo, R., & Burnstein, E. (2008). The value of distrust. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 44, 12931302.
Schwarz, N. (1994). Judgment in a social context: Biases, shortcomings, and the logic of
conversation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 123-162.
Schwarz, N. (1996). Cognition and communication: Judgmental biases, research methods, and the
logic of conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Schwarz, N. (1998). Accessible content and accessibility experiences: The interplay of declarative
and experiential information in judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2,
Schwarz, N. (2012). Feelings-as-information theory. In P. A. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E.
Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 289308). Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.
Schwarz, N (2015). Metacognition. In M. Mikulincer, P.R. Shaver, E. Borgida, & J. A. Bargh
(Eds.), APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social
Cognition (pp. 203-229). Washington, DC: APA
Schwarz, N. (2018). Of fluency, beauty, and truth: Inferences from metacognitive experiences. In
J. Proust & M. Fortier (Eds.), Metacognitive diversity. An interdisciplinary approach (pp.
25-46). New York: Oxford University Press.
Schwarz, N., & Lee, S.W.S. (2019). The smell of suspicion: How the nose curbs gullibility. In J.P.
Forgas & R. F. Baumeister (eds.), The social psychology of gullibility: Fake news,
conspiracy theories, and irrational beliefs (pp. 234-252). New York: Routledge/
Psychology Press.
Schwarz, N., Newman, E., & Leach, W. (2016). Making the truth stick and the myths fade: Lessons
from cognitive psychology. Behavioral Science & Policy, 2(1), 85-95.
Schwarz, N., Sanna, L. J., Skurnik, I., & Yoon, C. (2007). Metacognitive experiences and the
intricacies of setting people straight: Implications for debiasing and public information
campaigns. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 127-161.
Schwarz, N. & Vaughn, L.A. (2002). The availability heuristic revisited: Ease of recall and content
of recall as distinct sources of information. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman
(Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (pp. 103-119).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Silva, R. R., Chrobot, N., Newman, E., Schwarz, N., & Topolinski, S. (2017). Make it short and
easy: Username complexity determines trustworthiness above and beyond objective
reputation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2200.
Sinatra, G. M., & Pintrich, P. (2003). The role of intentions in conceptual change learning. In G.
M. Sinatra & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Intentional conceptual change. Mahwah, New Jersey:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Skurnik, I., Yoon, C., Park, D. C., & Schwarz, N. (2005). How warnings about false claims become
recommendations. Journal of Consumer Research, 31, 713724.
Song, H., & Schwarz, N. (2008). Fluency and the detection of misleading questions: Low
processing fluency attenuates the Moses illusion. Social Cognition, 26, 791799.
Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Stanovich, K. E. (1999) Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Erlbaum,
Taber, C. S., & Lodge, M. (2006). Motivated skepticism in the evaluation of political beliefs.
American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 755-769.
Toland, J. (1976). Adolf Hitler. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Topolinski, S. (2012). Nonpropositional consistency. In B. Gawronski & F. Strack (Eds.),
Cognitive consistency: A fundamental principle in social cognition (pp. 112-131). New
York: Guilford Press.
Topolinski, S., & Strack, F. (2008). Where there’s a will—there’s no intuition. The unintentional
basis of semantic coherence judgments. Journal of Memory and Language, 58, 10321048.
Topolinski, S., & Strack, F. (2009). The architecture of intuition: Fluency and affect determine
intuitive judgments of semantic and visual coherence and judgments of grammaticality in
artificial grammar learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 3963.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and
probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5, 207232.
Unkelbach, C., & Greifeneder, R. (2018). Experiential fluency and declarative advice jointly
inform judgments of truth. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79, 78-86.
Visser, P.S., & Mirabile, R.R. (2004). Attitudes in the social context: The impact of social network
composition on individual-level attitude strength. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 87, 779-795.
Vosniadou, S. (Ed.) (2008). International handbook of research on conceptual change. New York,
NY: Routledge.
Weaver, K., Garcia, S. M., Schwarz, N., & Miller, D. T. (2007). Inferring the popularity of an
opinion from its familiarity: A repetitive voice can sound like a chorus. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 821833.
Weisbuch, M., & Mackie, D. (2009). False fame, perceptual clarity, or persuasion? Flexible fluency
attribution in spokesperson familiarity effects. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(1), 62-
Winkielman, P., Huber, D. E., Kavanagh, L. & Schwarz, N. (2012). Fluency of consistency: When
thoughts fit nicely and flow smoothly. In B. Gawronski & F. Strack (Eds.), Cognitive
consistency: A fundamental principle in social cognition (pp. 89-111). New York: Guilford
Yousif, S. R., Aboody, R., & Keil, F. C. (2019). The illusion of consensus: A failure to distinguish
between true and false consensus. Psychological Science, 30(8), 1195-1204.
Table 1. Truth Criteria
Analytic Evaluation
Intuitive Evaluation
Compatibility: Is it compatible
with other things I know?
Is this compatible with
knowledge retrieved from
memory or obtained from
trusted sources?
Does this make me stumble or
does it flow smoothly?
Coherence: Is it internally
Do the elements fit together in
a logical way? Do the
conclusions follow from what
is presented?
Does this make me stumble or
does it flow smoothly?
Credibility: Does it come from
a credible source?
Does the source have the
relevant expertise? Does the
source have a vested interest?
Is the source trustworthy?
Does the source feel familiar
and trustworthy?
Consensus: Do other people
believe it?
What do my friends say? What
do the opinion polls say?
Does it feel familiar?
Evidence: Is there supporting
Is there supportive evidence in
peer-reviewed scientific
articles or credible news
reports? Do I remember
relevant evidence?
Does some evidence easily
come to mind?
Figure 1. Print font and the detection of misleading information
Print font
% answering without
noticing error
How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?
How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?
Note. Adapted from Song & Schwarz (2008), Experiment 1.
... Schwarz & Jalbert (2021) sostienen que la verdad se encuentra en desventaja, porque suele ser más complicada de procesar en comparación con los contenidos falsos, que a menudo se limitan a simplificar problemas complejos; y es que cualquier variable capaz de influir en la facilidad que tiene el usuario para procesar una información concreta (por ejemplo, un vocabulario simple u otro poco inteligible) es susceptible de condicionar la evaluación que esa persona va a hacer sobre la veracidad del contenido. Para complementar todo esto, resulta útil acudir a la siguiente tabla, en la que se incluyen los principales criterios que suelen emplear las personas para valorar si una información puede ser falsa o verdadera: Como explican Schwarz & Jalbert (2021), las personas pueden evaluar esos criterios de manera analítica (un proceso más lento y que requiere cierto esfuerzo, como realizar una búsqueda exhaustiva de información sobre el tema) o intuitiva (un proceso más rápido que se basa en la confianza en nuestra primera impresión al respecto). De acuerdo con estos autores, la evaluación intuitiva es de enorme importancia, puesto que, cuando esa respuesta inicial intuitiva nos avisa de que puede haber algo turbio en una información concreta, generalmente iniciamos una evaluación más analítica que nos permita discernir la veracidad de ese contenido. ...
... En la misma línea, Levy (2017) también defiende que las noticias falsas son más dañinas de lo que en un principio podría parecer, incluso cuando el receptor es plenamente consciente de que está delante de una noticia falsa. Este autor sostiene que las noticias falsas son capaces de conseguir que los usuarios adquieran algunas de las ideas presentadas en ese contenido fraudulento y que, un tiempo después, atribuyan esas ideas a fuentes fiables o al saber popular, sin recordar ni darse cuenta de que en realidad proceden de una noticia falsa (ver tambiénSchwarz & Jalbert;. ...
... sostiene que hay dos grandes razones por las cuales entramos a formar parte de grupos: nos ayudan a satisfacer nuestra necesidad de pertenencia y nos confieren una identidad 17 .Respecto a esto último (grupos e identidad),Oyserman & Dawson (2021) subrayan los intentos de persuasión que llevan a cabo determinados actores para tratar de llevar a los individuos desde un razonamiento basado en la información disponible hasta otro basado en cuestiones identitarias. Entre otros motivos, esto es importante porque en un contexto en el que la opinión pública está polarizada el mero hecho de que un mensaje determinado apoye a los otros es más que suficiente para levantar desconfianza y sembrar dudas sobre la validez de ese mensaje(Schwarz & Jalbert, 2021). existencia de ese «tribalismo político» y en cómo los sesgos intragrupo/exogrupo influyen en el individuo como sujeto que está inserto en uno o varios grupos. ...
Full-text available
En los últimos años se han publicado numerosos trabajos sobre distintos aspectos relacionados con el problema de las noticias falsas. Desde el ámbito académico se han propuesto varias definiciones y reflexiones sobre este fenómeno, pero son pocas las investigaciones encontradas que realmente se detienen a preguntar y escuchar a la audiencia para así profundizar en cómo esta comprende y decodifica ese tipo de contenidos. ¿Qué es para la audiencia una noticia falsa? ¿Qué lleva a una persona a creer que algunas de las noticias que consume en su día a día son falsas y otras no? ¿Qué papel puede tener en todo ello la identificación con un grupo político concreto? Para elaborar estrategias eficaces contra la desinformación y las noticias falsas también es fundamental conocer cómo la audiencia recibe estos contenidos. Este proyecto busca contribuir al conocimiento sobre la recepción de noticias falsas mediante la propuesta de una investigación cualitativa en la que se emplearán entrevistas en profundidad para comprender mejor cómo la audiencia construye la noción de «noticia falsa» y cómo la pertenencia a un grupo político puede influir en ese proceso.
... In the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the spread of rumours and misinformation has been coined an 'infodemic' that needs to be battled just as the virus itself (Naeem and Bhatti 2020;Orso et al. 2020;Patwa et al. 2021;Zarcostas 2020). Indeed, there is considerable theoretical and empirical work that has focused on understanding the psychological and social processes that lead to the adoption of (Cann and Katz 2005;Margolin 2021;Pan, Liu, and Fang 2021;Schwarz and Jalbert 2021;Stecula, Kuru, and Jamieson 2020), the spread of (Duffy, Tandoc, and Ling 2020;Effron and Raj 2020;Kirkpatrick 2021;Pennycook et al. 2021;Petersen, Osmundsen, and Arceneaux 2020;Talwar et al. 2019), and the resistance to misinformation (Desai and Reimers 2019;Desai, Pilditch, and Madsen 2020;Flynn, Nyhan, and Reifler 2020;Huang and Wang 2020;Lewandowsky and van der Linden 2021;van der Linden et al. 2017). At the same time, there is limited work that examines what people generally take misinformation to mean. ...
... For example, in mixed-role markets, where users can also provide services and service providers can be users, reputation systems may lead to reputational credits that can be spent on future transactions, regardless of the initial role in which the credits were earned [38]. Recent work demonstrates that information presentation, such as the type of questions [39] or the readability of the text [40], may result in different levels of misinformation acceptance and recognition. ...
Full-text available
The sharing economy is fueled by trust, which allows strangers to cooperate. To share responsibly, one needs to be aware of the various consequences sharing has on interacting and third parties. When transparency about such consequences is lacking, mutual trust among interacting parties may encourage people to cooperate and share, in turn creating unintended negative impact. Psychologists have long studied trust and cooperation, yet few insights from psychological science have been used to understand the sharing economy. Here, we propose that evoking trust may paradoxically increase motivated information processing leading people to share irresponsibly by ignoring the negative consequences sharing has on others. We review three conditions under which evoking trust may lead to irresponsible sharing: ethical blind spots, willful ignorance, and misinformation. We propose that transparent information is key to enable and encourage responsible sharing. More psychological research is needed to better understand how this flourishing, trust-based industry can be shaped to encourage safe, cooperative, and responsible sharing.
The illusory truth effect refers to the fact that repetition increases perceptions of truth. In these experiments, we examined whether the magnitude of the illusory truth effect varies based upon repetition spacing. In Experiment 1, participants read facts that repeated twice, with a lag of 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 intervening facts. Participants later rated the truthfulness of these facts in addition to new facts. Here, we observed a spacing effect: Truth ratings were higher when repetitions were spaced (i.e., lags of 1 through 32) rather than massed (i.e., lag of 0). We also observed a lag effect that followed a quadratic pattern: Truth ratings increased up to a lag of 16, after which they decreased. In Experiment 2 we tested whether the spacing effect in truth ratings depends upon the number of repetitions. In Experiment 2a we used a small number of repetitions (2, 3, or 4) and short lag lengths (0, 1, or 2). In Experiment 2b, we increased the number of repetitions (2 or 10) and the lag lengths (0 or 10). In Experiment 2a there was an illusory truth effect, but its magnitude did not depend upon lag length or repetition number. However, in Experiment 2b the magnitude of the illusory truth effect increased as lag length and repetition number increased, but there was no interaction between these two factors. Together, these findings show that repetition most likely to increases perceived truth when repetitions are spaced with a moderate number of intervening items.
Full-text available
Consensus between informants is a valuable cue to a claim's epistemic value, when informants' beliefs are developed independently of each other. Recent work (Yousif et al., 2019) described an illusion of consensus such that people did not generally discriminate between the epistemic warrant of true consensus, where a majority claim is supported by multiple independent sources, and false consensus arising from repetition of a single source's claim. Four experiments tested a novel account of the illusion of consensus; that it arises when people are unsure about the independence of the primary sources on which informant claims are based. When this independence relationship was ambiguous we found evidence for the illusion. However, when steps were taken to highlight the independence between data sources in the true consensus conditions, and confidence in a claim was measured against a no consensus baseline (where there was an equal number of reports supporting and opposing a claim), more weight was given to claims based on true consensus than false consensus. These findings show that although the illusion of consensus is prevalent, people do have the capacity to distinguish between true and false consensus.
The backfire effect is when a correction increases belief in the very misconception it is attempting to correct, and it is often used as a reason not to correct misinformation. The current study aimed to test whether correcting misinformation increases belief more than a no-correction control. Furthermore, we aimed to examine whether item-level differences in backfire rates were associated with test-retest reliability or theoretically meaningful factors. These factors included worldview-related attributes, including perceived importance and strength of precorrection belief, and familiarity-related attributes, including perceived novelty and the illusory truth effect. In 2 nearly identical experiments, we conducted a longitudinal pre/post design with N = 388 and 532 participants. Participants rated 21 misinformation items and were assigned to a correction condition or test-retest control. We found that no items backfired more in the correction condition compared to test-retest control or initial belief ratings. Item backfire rates were strongly negatively correlated with item reliability (ρ = -.61/-.73) and did not correlate with worldview-related attributes. Familiarity-related attributes were significantly correlated with backfire rate, though they did not consistently account for unique variance beyond reliability. While there have been previous papers highlighting the nonreplicable nature of backfire effects, the current findings provide a potential mechanism for this poor replicability. It is crucial for future research into backfire effects to use reliable measures, report the reliability of their measures, and take reliability into account in analyses. Furthermore, fact-checkers and communicators should not avoid giving corrective information due to backfire concerns. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
Full-text available
This is an indexed collection and depiction of typologies and taxonomies of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news.
Full-text available
Este trabalho tem como objeto de estudo analisar como as fake news difundidas na internet conseguiram ganhar tamanha proporção a ponto de impactar a forma na qual as pessoas passaram a aceitar o que é verdade e o que é mentira, além dos impactos políticos e sociais gerados, como por exemplo a disseminação do discurso de ódio e ascensão de líderes radicais.
Full-text available
21st-century society is facing a crisis of truth. Digital media lends itself to this by allowing the dissemination of almost unlimited quantities of unverified content. This threatens the development of accurate thinking along with the decision-making process in critical situations. Learning how to evaluate online information is thus vital in such scenarios. Much has been done in this regard, including explanations of criteria for evaluating information. However, some criteria may require explicitness. Critical thinking (CT) dispositions also need to be addressed more emphatically in the online content evaluation process. This study attempted to address both aspects theoretically in the context of controversial issues on the Web. Evaluating controversial content requires rigorous standards beyond the widely agreed criteria involving authorship, meaning criteria related to content production (systematicity) and its validation or corroboration (scrutiny). Consequently, four evaluation criteria were proposed, namely, author position, author motivation, systematicity, and independent scrutiny, which require the identification and practice of specific evaluation skills, basic knowledge, and fundamentally, key CT dispositions. Both the skills and dispositions are discussed around a general framework introduced in this study with educational implications for the evaluation of controversial content online and beyond.
Full-text available
True or false? “A woodpecker is the only bird that can fly backwards.” When such a claim appears with a related, but non-probative photo (e.g., a photo of a woodpecker perched on a tree) people are more likely to think the claim is true—a truthiness effect. This truthiness effect holds across a range of judgments, including judgments about general knowledge facts, predictions about future events, and judgments about our own episodic memories. Throughout, adding a photograph to a claim rapidly increases people’s belief in that claim. We review the literature on truthiness, documenting the ways in which photos and other kinds of non-probative information can rapidly change people’s beliefs, memories, and estimations of their own general knowledge. We also examine the mechanisms contributing to truthiness and explore the implications for misinformation and fake news.
Full-text available
In making sense of experience and choosing a course of action, identities matter. People are more likely to accept and share messages that fit the way they make sense of themselves and their world. Messages that fit are more likely to stick and are less likely to be counterargued. One way to create this "fit" is to frame persuasion attempts in culturally fluent terms and yoke a call to action to the social categories people experience as 'true' and 'natural.' This two-step process (setting a culturally fluent frame and linking action to identity) shifts people from information-based to identity-based processing. Once this occurs, identities shape which facts matter, how much information is enough, how carefully information is scrutinized, and how much people accept, believe, and share rather than reject, disbelieve, and counterargue messages regarding these facts and information. We outline how this works, arguing that by combining cultural fluency and identities, disinformation may be more efficient than information or misinformation in rallying people to action and that corrective "undoing" attempts must address this culture-identity framing.
Full-text available
The wide availability of user-provided content in online social media facilitates the aggregation of people around common interests, worldviews, and narratives. However, the World Wide Web (WWW) also allows for the rapid dissemination of unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories that often elicit rapid, large, but naive social responses such as the recent case of Jade Helm 15-where a simple military exercise turned out to be perceived as the beginning of a new civil war in the United States. In this work, we address the determinants governing misinformation spreading through a thorough quantitative analysis. In particular, we focus on how Facebook users consume information related to two distinct narratives: scientific and conspiracy news. We find that, although consumers of scientific and conspiracy stories present similar consumption patterns with respect to content, cascade dynamics differ. Selective exposure to content is the primary driver of content diffusion and generates the formation of homogeneous clusters, i.e., "echo chambers ." Indeed, homogeneity appears to be the primary driver for the diffusion of contents and each echo chamber has its own cascade dynamics. Finally, we introduce a data-driven percolation model mimicking rumor spreading and we show that homogeneity and polarization are the main determinants for predicting cascades' size. misinformation | virality | Facebook | rumor spreading | cascades
Full-text available
In all languages studied, suspicion is metaphorically associated with the sense of smell. The relevant smell is a smell of rotting organic matter that one may eat. In some languages, one specific smell dominates the metaphors; in English, that smell is fishy. The smell-suspicion link is presumably adaptive – if something you may eat doesn’t smell right, you better inspect it closely before proceeding. Given this link, does incidental exposure to a fishy smell make people more suspicious and does this curb gullibility? The empirical answer is a resounding Yes. Incidental exposure to a fishy smell reduces (i) trust in economic trust games and (ii) cooperation in public good games; increases (iii) the detection of misleading presuppositions in language comprehension and (iv) the detection of discrepancies between different versions of a story; (v) decreases confirmation bias and (vi) increases attempts at falsification (negative hypothesis testing). Conversely, making people suspicious through a social manipulation (vii) increases their sensitivity to fishy smells and (viii) improves smell identification. These effects emerge on classic reasoning tasks, such as the Wason rule discovery task or the Moses illusion, and standard trust games. They do not emerge for aversive smells without a metaphorical suspicion link (e.g., fart smell), but may not require that the smell is the one specified by one’s native language. We discuss the accumulating findings in the broader context of cognition as situated, experiential, embodied, and pragmatic and offer conjectures about broader implications.
Full-text available
Can the mere name of a seller determine his trustworthiness in the eye of the consumer? In 10 studies (total N = 608) we explored username complexity and trustworthiness of eBay seller profiles. Name complexity was manipulated through variations in username pronounceability and length. These dimensions had strong, independent effects on trustworthiness, with sellers with easy-to-pronounce or short usernames being rated as more trustworthy than sellers with difficult-to-pronounce or long usernames, respectively. Both effects were repeatedly found even when objective information about seller reputation was available. We hypothesized the effect of name complexity on trustworthiness to be based on the experience of high vs. low processing fluency, with little awareness of the underlying process. Supporting this, participants could not correct for the impact of username complexity when explicitly asked to do so. Three alternative explanations based on attributions of the variations in name complexity to seller origin (ingroup vs. outgroup), username generation method (seller personal choice vs. computer algorithm) and age of the eBay profiles (10 years vs. 1 year) were tested and ruled out. Finally, we show that manipulating the ease of reading product descriptions instead of the sellers’ names also impacts the trust ascribed to the sellers.
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 and a preregistered experiment that investigate this idea. Contrary to many intuitions, our results suggest that belief in all statements is increased by repetition. The observed illusory truth effect is largest for ambiguous items, but this can be explained by the psychometric properties of the task, rather than an underlying psychological mechanism that blocks the impact of repetition for implausible items. Our results indicate that the illusory truth effect is highly robust and occurs across all levels of plausibility. Therefore, even highly implausible statements will become more plausible with enough repetition.
When evaluating information, we cannot always rely on what has been presented as truth: Different sources might disagree with each other, and sometimes there may be no underlying truth. Accordingly, we must use other cues to evaluate information—perhaps the most salient of which is consensus. But what counts as consensus? Do we attend only to surface-level indications of consensus, or do we also probe deeper and consider why sources agree? Four experiments demonstrated that individuals evaluate consensus only superficially: Participants were equally confident in conclusions drawn from a true consensus (derived from independent primary sources) and a false consensus (derived from only one primary source). This phenomenon was robust, occurring even immediately after participants explicitly stated that a true consensus was more believable than a false consensus. This illusion of consensus reveals a powerful means by which misinformation may spread.
Processing fluency, the experienced ease of ongoing mental operations, influences judgments such as frequency, monetary value, or truth. Most experiments keep to-be-judged stimuli ambiguous with regards to these judgment dimensions. In real life, however, people usually have declarative information about these stimuli beyond the experiential processing information. Here, we address how experiential fluency information may inform truth judgments in the presence of declarative advice information. Four experiments show that fluency influences judged truth even when advice about the statements' truth is continuously available and labelled as highly valid; the influence follows a linear cue integration pattern for two orthogonal cues (i.e., experiential and declarative information). These data underline the importance of processing fluency as an explanatory construct in real-life judgements and support a cue integration framework to understand fluency effects in judgment and decision making.
Increasingly, scientific communications are recorded and made available online. While researchers carefully draft the words they use, the quality of the recording is at the mercy of technical staff. Does it make a difference? We presented identical conference talks (Experiment 1) and radio interviews from NPR’s Science Friday (Experiment 2) in high or low audio quality and asked people to evaluate the researcher and the research they presented. Despite identical content, people evaluated the research and researcher less favorably when the audio quality was low, suggesting that audio quality can influence impressions of science.
The Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology is an essential resource for researchers and students of social psychology and related disciplines.