The time we live in will undoubtedly go intohistory as an era of information storm and fake news. Evidence from numerous studies suggests that people generally tend to trust false beliefs. We recently wrote about the reasons people trust fake news. The habit of regularly checking the facts can help find the truth in an endless stream of information. However, according to scientists, it is not as simple as it might seem at first glance.
Who is subject to cognitive bias?
If you listen to unfounded statements often enough, then starting to believe in them is very easy. This effect is called the effect of the illusory truth and refers to numerous cognitive distortions.
Cognitive biases are mistakes that are allwe systematically admit. This is because they are hidden in the very nature of thinking. Speaking of cognitive distortions, we assume that people are irrational and prone to systematic errors related to the specific mechanism of human thinking.
The effect of the illusory truth is very fond ofadvertisers and politicians. And if you consider yourself not subject to this cognitive distortion, then most likely you are mistaken. According to a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in April 2019, people with high intelligence and an analytical mindset are also exposed to the effect of illusory truth.
However, this does not mean that we can’t do anything.to do. A recent study published in the Cognition journal showed that using our own knowledge to verify false claims may prevent us from believing that this is true when we re-hear the verified statement.
The effect of illusory truth
The effect of the illusory truth stems fromthe fact that we perceive repeated statements easily and freely. The brain accepts easy-to-digest information as a signal that the statement is true. This effect occurs even when we hear a statement, knowing that it is incorrect. Nadia Brachier of Harvard University and her colleagues wondered if a call to focus on accuracy could encourage people to use their knowledge and not rely on a sense of ease to learn.
During the study, scientists asked 103the subjects read 60 well-known facts, some of which were true (for example, the Italian city known for its canals - Venice), and some were false (for example, the planet closest to the Sun is Venus). Then the subjects were divided into two groups. One group appreciated how interesting each statement was, and the other how true it was. Then, in the second part of the study, both groups were shown 60 identical statements and 60 new ones. All statements were mixed - some true, some not. The subjects were to determine which of the statements is true and which is false.
The researchers found that participants whofocused on how interesting the statements in the first part of the study were, demonstrated the effect of an illusory truth: they subsequently rated the false statements that they had already seen as more true than the new false statements. But the group, which initially focused on the accuracy of the statements, did not show this effect, evaluating new and repeated false statements as equally true.
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This discovery suggests that usingown knowledge for a critical analysis of statements, when we first encounter it, can serve as a vaccine against the effect of illusory truth. And this, apparently, has rather long-lasting consequences: in another experiment, the team found that the participants, who initially focused on the accuracy of the statements, did not show signs of the effect of illusory truth two days later.
Why and how to check information?
Experts point out that consideration of accuracystatements are only useful if you already have the appropriate knowledge (for example, if you know that the closest planet to the Sun is Mercury, not Venus). In further research, scientists found that evaluating the veracity of false statements that subjects had little knowledge of did not protect against the illusory effect of truth.
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Thus, basic knowledge about the worldnecessary to counter false beliefs. Research findings suggest that people may need to be encouraged to apply their existing knowledge more often. Education offers only part of the solution to the disinformation crisis. Researchers believe that the habit of checking incoming information can make our lives better and safer and should be instilled from childhood.