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Nov. 8, 2019, 11:06 a.m.
LINK: news.utexas.edu  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   November 8, 2019

Researchers attached EEGs to 83 undergrad students’ heads and tracked their brain activity as they analyzed whether fake news stories — including those that had been flagged as false — were fake. While the students showed “reactions of discomfort…when headlines supported their beliefs but were flagged as false,” that dissonance didn’t stop them from going with what they already believed:

This dissonance was not enough to make participants change their minds. They overwhelmingly said that headlines conforming with their preexisting beliefs were true, regardless of whether they were flagged as potentially fake. The flag did not change their initial response to the headline, even if it did make them pause a moment longer and study it a bit more carefully.

It didn’t matter whether the subjects identified as Republicans or Democrats: That “didn’t influence their ability to detect fake news,” lead author Patricia Moravec said, “and it didn’t determine how skeptical they were about what’s news and what’s not.” The students assessed only 44 percent of the stories accurately.

The study was published this week in Management Information Systems Quarterly.

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