Understanding the Impact of Fake News


In the fast-paced world of ours, there exists huge loads of information. This digital world is in the realm of ‘Information is Wealth’. In such an unprecedented sense, there lies a thin line between truth and deception. To understand this further, we may have to learn the intricacies and the psychology behind them. The impact of fake news is more insidious. This article will further try to learn certain aspects of fake news and the psychology behind it.


Fake news can be defined as news content published online or on any media platform that aesthetically describes and resembles the actual news content. Still, it is either fabricated or extremely inaccurate. Another aspect of fake news is that the information is presented in a way as though it is from a legitimate source. It is sometimes referred to as false, junk, or fabricated news.

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A few synonymous terms include disinformation and misinformation Disinformation is often referred to as information that is false or inaccurate very much intended to mislead people. Misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information or content. Unlike disinformation, misinformation is not created with the intention of misleading people or paths.

Prevalence of fake news

Fake news is not something new. It is something that has its prevalent since the 1800s. The highly misleading information or fake news has been spreading since then and has been redoubled in the later years, especially during the spread of COVID-19. This false news has the potential of falsifying even the truth. It’s been found that every rumour that is spread has the potential of becoming a piece of fake news. An estimation says that Facebook accounts for about 68% of false news. few other sources include YouTube, Social Media, and certain websites.

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Proneness of fake news

Though we cannot properly identify and tell the characteristics of people who are more prone or susceptible to fake news, it has been found that individuals with low analytical ability, and low relevant knowledge tend to believe false news. Also, individuals with low levels of certain personality factors like Openness to experience and conscientiousness can be more prone to it than other individuals.

News susceptible to be fake

Certain aspects of news have the potential of being fake. Individuals tend to believe the greater spread of fake news if that aligns with their belief system, particularly if it is negative. Also, whenever individuals experience stronger emotions, they tend to believe fake news.

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Drivers of fake news

Some of the factors that act as drivers of fake/ False news could be categorized into cognitive factors and socio-emotional factors.

Cognitive factors: This includes intuitive thinking, cognitive failures and illusory truths

  • Intuitive thinking means the tendency to think analytically and act deliberately.
  • Cognitive failure is the lack of tendency of an individual to identify relevant cues and sources.
  • Illusory truth is similar to the illusion or misperception of truth
  • Individuals who lack intuitive thinking, have cognitive failure and possess illusory truths tend to believe.

Socio-emotional factors: this includes source cues, emotion and worldview.

  • Source cues include the elites, in-group and attractiveness may lead to acceptance of fake news
  • Emotions include emotional information and emotional state of mind – all of these can lead to acceptance of fake news.
  • World view includes personal view and partisanship.

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Cognitive Biases and Fake News

Cognitive bias is the error in the thinking pattern that occurs when individuals process and interpret information of the world which affects the decisions and judgement ahead also. These biases have so much relevance to the widespread of fake news. Some of the cognitive biases that have a connection with false news include:

  • Familiarity bias– it is the error that occurs when people tend to rely on information that is already familiar to them in making decisions. Media relies on the increased usage of familiarity bias. The high volume of already familiar information leads to increased believability. This is how false news operates and leads to increased spread.
  • Availability bias- the error that occurs in a decision made specifically based on what’s on the mind or only upon the available information. The easiest thing that gets stored in our brain is the available or already stored information. Thus the easier it gets into the brain, the more acceptable and believable it becomes, though it remains fake.
  • Confirmation Bias- an error that occurs as a result of confirming an information or process because of prior knowledge or experience. When there is any news that syncs to your already loaded information, faster it spreads.

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Counteracting Fake News

There are certain strategies and interventions to counteract fake news. This can be done through

Awareness of cognitive biases

Encouraging and creating awareness about the most common cognitive errors that happen can decrease the spread of false news

  • Strengthen the core: Focusing on the strengthening of emotional intelligence and building upon resilience can help individuals not fall for deception. Emotion is the major core that is behind all the deception in the media and also in the non-media platforms. Knowing the tactics and strategies behind emotional manipulation can help individuals move away from the prey of false news.
  • Check facts: There should be awareness and increased use of fact-checking tools and resources that are very much available in the world. This would help us know the credibility and reliance of the information.
  • Public Awareness: There should be campaigns that propagate the truth and false that are spread widely. Increasing awareness among the public about the widespread false news would make individuals beware.
  • Psychological inoculation: This is a methodology widely used in medical sciences. Later, the same technique was imbibed in psychology as an intervention towards false news.

Read More: Cognitive Biases in Everyday Life

It is a strategy or a technique that involves preexposing an individual to minor false information which would make an individual futile and increase resistance towards any information that passes by the individual. This Psychological inoculation technique tends to strengthen the individual towards future aspects also.

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