Study: Three In Four Americans Can't Parse The News For BS
Reader, do you think you're just too smart to ever possibly fall for bogus stories? Do you pride yourself in your almost superhuman ability to parse fact from fiction in the digital media landscape? Do you think you should be hired as the CEO of Snopes – effective immediately?
Well, folks, it seems we may want to direct some of the scrutiny reserved for our weird aunt who shares conspiracy theories on Facebook all day inward, as apparently, we're almost all terrible at identifying misinformation online. According to a new study from the University of Utah up to three in four Americans overestimate their ability to sniff out phony headlines, with Republicans more so than Democrats, more likely to fall for bogus stories, a concerning finding that researchers say “paint a worrying picture."
In a survey of 8,200 people, a team of researchers at the institution, led by communications professor Ben Lyons, showed participants headlines formatted to look like a news article on Facebook and asked them to self-report their ability to distinguish which stories are true and which are -- cue your best Donald Trump impression -- fake news. Although roughly 90% of volunteers said they were “above average” at telling a steaming pile of BS from legitimate journalist work, it seems the Dunning–Kruger effect is alive and well, with those reporting higher competence actually faring worse at the task.
“We show that overconfident individuals are more likely to visit untrustworthy websites in behavioral data,” wrote the team in the study, published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “To fail to successfully distinguish between true and false claims about current events in survey questions; and to report greater willingness to like or share false content on social media, especially when it is politically congenial.”
Yet according to researchers, this lack of self-awareness could actually encourage the spread of fake news. “In all, these results paint a worrying picture,” they continued. “The individuals who are least equipped to identify false news content are also the least aware of their own limitations and, therefore, more susceptible to believing it and spreading it further," they continued, noting that "Republicans are more overconfident than Democrats, which is not surprising given the lower levels of media trust they report."
So folks, next time you go to share an article on Facebook, please double-check it's real. We already have Michael Flynn pushing baseless allegations of voter fraud and Trump claiming he'll be reinstated as president – we have more than enough of our fair share of B.S.