Most People Don’t Actively Seek to Share Fake News

David Rand and Gordon Pennycook: Our research finds that most people do not wish to share inaccurate information (in fact, over 80 percent of respondents felt that it’s very important to only share accurate content online) and that, in many cases, people are fairly good (overall) at distinguishing legitimate news from false and misleading (hyperpartisan) news. Research we’ve conducted consistently shows that it’s not partisan motivations that lead people to fail to distinguish between true and false news content, but rather simple old lazy thinking. People fall for fake news when they rely on their intuitions and emotions, and therefore don’t think enough about what they are reading — a problem that is likely exacerbated on social media, where people scroll quickly, are distracted by a deluge of information, and encounter news mixed in with emotionally engaging baby photos, cat videos and the like. This means that when thinking about the rise of misinformation online, the issue is not so much a shift in people’s attitudes about truth, but rather a more subtle shift in attention to truth.

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