Beyond “fake news”: analytic thinking and the detection of false and hyperpartisan news headlines

Robert M. Ross*, David G. Rand, Gordon Pennycook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

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 hyper- partisan content. Alternatively, it may be that susceptibility to hyperpartisan content is explained by a lack of reasoning. Across two studies using different participant pools (total N = 1,973 Americans), we had participants assess true, false, and hyperpartisan news headlines taken from social media. We found no evidence that analytic thinking was associated with judging politically consistent hyperpartisan or false headlines to be accurate and unbiased. Instead, analytic thinking was, in most cases, associated with an increased tendency to distinguish true headlines from both false and hyperpar- tisan headlines (and was never associated with decreased discernment). These results suggest that reasoning typically helps people differentiate between low and high qual- ity political news, rather than facilitate belief in misleading content. Because social media play an important role in the dissemination of misinformation, we also inves- tigated willingness to share headlines on social media. We found a similar pattern whereby analytic thinking was not generally associated with increased willingness to share hyperpartisan or false headlines. Together, these results suggest a positive role for reasoning in resisting misinformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-504
Number of pages21
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Volume16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • dual-process theory
  • fake news
  • misinformation
  • news media
  • partisanship

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