Why our brains believe in lies
Fake news -
In recent years, the spreading of misinformation has become a hot topic.
The human reality -
The reality is, however, that the human brain is highly susceptible to misinformation.
Burning question -
So, why do our brains believe in lies? Why are we unable to distinguish between a true statement and a (sometimes glaringly obvious) falsehood?
The illusory truth effect -
This means that the more time a statement is repeated, the more likely we are to believe it is true, regardless of whether it is misinformation or fact.
Day-to-day reality -
In our day-to-day lives, this makes a lot of sense and is not always harmful: the vast majority of statements we are exposed to are true.
Eyes and ears -
Unfortunately, it seems that at a basic level we are all grappling with the human tendency to believe anything we see and hear.
In layman's terms -
In a nutshell, confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that fits with and confirms what we already believe or think we know.
Continued influence effect -
Indeed, there are multiple studies that refer to a phenomenon called the "continued influence effect."
The role of memory -
It is thought that one of the reasons it is difficult to correct misinformation is that correcting the falsehood does not remove it from our memory.
Instead, brain imaging studies show that both the misinformation and its correction coexist in our memory and compete to be remembered.
Fading memories -
Over time, it is likely that our memory of the correction fades and we are left only with a memory of the original piece of misinformation.
The role of identity -
Finally, this effect is compounded by the fact that the piece of misinformation is sometimes embedded into our identity or belief system.
How to combat misinformation -
So, what can we do about all this? How do we combat our tendency to believe in lies when it is so deeply entrenched?
Priming our brains -
Research suggests that it may be possible to train our brains to recognize misinformation before we encounter it.
Recent study -
One recent study found that nudging people to consider accuracy when scrolling made them less likely to share misinformation.