Media & PR

Think slow, think smart when it comes to the news

A new experiment suggests that people are less likely to be fooled by fake news if they take more time over reading it.

As the researchers report:

We used the two-response paradigm, in which participants are presented with the same news headline twice. First, they are asked to give a very quick, intuitive response under time pressure and working memory load (Bago & De Neys, 2019). After this, they are presented with the task again and asked to give a final response without time pressure or working memory load (thus allowing unrestricted deliberation). This paradigm has been shown to reliably manipulate the relative roles of intuition and deliberation across a range of tasks (e.g., Bago & De Neys, 2017, 2019; Thompson, Turner, & Pennycook, 2011)…

Broadly, we found that people made fewer mistakes in judging the veracity of headlines–and in particular were less likely to believe false claims –when they deliberated, regardless of whether or not the headlines aligned with their ideology.

For more details see the pre-print for Bago, B., Rand, D. G., & Pennycook, G. (2020) “Fake news, fast and slow: Deliberation reduces belief in false (but not true) news headlines”, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,

If this research is backed up by further studies, it’ll highlight a particular risk with the big shift in news consumption to the online world. The online world can host long-form news that takes time to consume. But through social media in particular it also encourages the sort of very rapid skimping across multiple stories that leaves people more prone to making mistakes and being fooled.

The point about how reflecting on the news makes for a better understanding of it fits well with what I argue in my new book Bad News, and in particular how much there is you can do to tease out the truth from stories even when they start with a misleading headline and go downhill from there.

The failings of the journalist and the editor needn’t become your own failing.



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