Untrue messaging appears in trusted sources with a consistent tone of voice, so it’s quite easy to take what’s said at face value, without double-checking. And while we might like to think we can spot when things are out of the ordinary, there are a few key behaviours that make us overtly vulnerable to believing what’s in front of us.
1 Recognise your own bias
Recognise that we select and prioritise information sources based on what we want to see and what we already believe, rather than what’s most reliable or correct.
Tali Sharot, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience finds in her research that we choose information sources that give us what we want rather than those that challenge what we think or make getting the news a chore. A good example of this is her findings that many of us are attracted to news shows that lean towards our political views. Regardless of how reliable these news sources are, we tend to rate them as more reliable if we know they support our political views. The problem with this is that we take face value information simply because of who delivers it – the source matters.
And this plays out in reverse as well. We tend to actively ignore information that goes against our grain. We essentially attempt to block it out and make sure it has little impact on our thoughts.
2 Learning by doing
Move away from debunking and fact-checking. Social psychologist Sander van der Linden has created a digital training programme to educate people on how to actively identify fake news. Learning by doing is a well-known technique for getting new skills to stick. And when people play this game they create fake news themselves, as a way of learning how to identify it. Across education, age, gender and political orientation, people who are learning to identify fake messaging within the game environment are becoming more confident in being able to do so in the real world.
3 Focus on how we process information
Not one for electronic games? You can instead focus on how we process information to form and develop our belief system.
Motivational reasoning is a cognitive constraint that can affect our capacity to receive information and lead us to favour options that require less cognitive effort. It explains what can drive us to conclude something different from others, even when we are looking at exactly the same information.
If you want to be more aware of the prevalence of fake news, think about prevention over treatment and recognise that we are probably already saturated with news that supports what we think. It’s acceptable to challenge your ego though and look further to gain a fuller picture.
This is an extract from an article that originally appeared on ING’s THINK.