Why We’re Susceptible to Fake News and How to Defend against It

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Thought processes and belief systems that people develop early in life to help protect against the anxiety and stress of an uncertain world may help explain why some individuals fall victim to what has come to be known as fake news, but psychologists can offer some strategies to defend against it, according to a series of presentations at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in August 2018 in San Francisco.

“At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” said Mark Whitmore, PhD, assistant professor of management and information systems at Kent State University’s College of Business Administration. “In fact, one could say the brain is hardwired to accept, reject, misremember, or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of, or threatening to, existing beliefs.”

The key to people’s accepting fake news as true, despite evidence to the contrary, is a phenomenon known as confirmation bias, or the tendency for people to seek and accept information that confirms their existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring that which contradicts those beliefs, he said.

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