Yale Researchers ask “Who Falls for Fake News?”


There is a link between religious fundamentalism and falling for fake news, says a paper entitled “Who Falls for Fake News?” It was published by David Rand and Gordon Pennycook, researches in Yale’s Department of Psychology. The researchers used Cognitive Reflection Test — or CRT — to evaluate participant’s analytic thinking, and they found a correlation between analytic thinking and participant’s tendency to believe inaccurate news headlines.

According to YaleDailyNews.com, Pennycook and Rand used three tests for their research. In their initial test, they presented 402 participants with six fake news items formatted in the style of a Facebook post and asked them to gauge the headlines’ accuracy on a scale of one to five. The two researchers also asked participants to complete the CRT and two questionnaires. The first questionnaire measured participants’ tendency to overclaim, or to declare familiarity with something that does not exist, while the second measured their inclination to find meaning in “pseudo-profound bulls—”: random sentences composed primarily of buzzwords, such as “we are in the midst of a high-frequency blossoming of interconnectedness that will give us access to the quantum soup itself.”

“Fake news, and political misinformation more generally, is a huge problem facing the world currently, and we wanted to try to understand it as psychologists,” Rand said. According to Rand, identifying those who are more susceptible to fake news has larger implications. “The ‘who’ also informs the ‘why’: Our work suggests that part of the ‘why’ is people not thinking about headlines they read in a careful, deliberative way,” he said.

This study came to a logical conclusion because those who believe in religious myths lack analytic thinking. If a man can believe in a talking snake, numbers of miracles performed by Jesus and other fantastic things, then it is easier for him to fall for fantastic news headlines. Those who were raised in a religious way are taught not to doubt lies which The Book and pastors tell them, and it sounds logical that it is harder for them to differentiate fake news from real ones. 

Fake news are fake news but their impact can be real. It is important to find a way to make people better in analytic and critical thinking. The best solution is to reach out for the children and educate them while they are young to search for explanations and evidence. If they learn from young ages that nothing should be taken for granted — and that there could be an alternative explanation even to those beliefs that are widely accepted — then they are more likely to become better critical thinkers.

Photo Credits: Misinfocon

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