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People who rely on instinct are more likely to believe fake news

People who believe that facts in the news are shaped by politics are more likely to stand behind false truths, according to a new study. Individuals who rely on their instincts are also more likely to embrace fake news, while people who form fact-based beliefs have a more accurate view of issues in the news.

Kelly Garrett is a professor of Communication at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author.

“Scientific and political misperceptions are dangerously common in the U.S. today,” said Garrett. “The willingness of large minorities of Americans to embrace falsehoods and conspiracy theories poses a threat to society’s ability to make well-informed decisions about pressing matters.”

Garrett teamed up with Brian Weeks of the University of Michigan to get a better idea of how people form their beliefs and to determine whether this influences their inclination to accept ideas that have little or no evidence to support them. The team examined data from three nationally representative surveys that included as many as 1,000 participants.

Participants in the surveys had rated statements such as “I trust my gut to tell me what’s true and what’s not,” “Evidence is more important than whether something feels true,” and “Facts are dictated by those in power.”
The experts analyzed the responses to estimate how much the individuals relied on their intuition, needed concrete evidence, or believed that “truth” is political.

Next, the researchers examined how the participants’ approach to deciding what is true was related to their beliefs about controversial subjects. The study included questions about topics such as the connection between human activity and climate change.

The researchers found that participants who believed that news is molded by politics and power were more likely to stand behind fabrications. On the other hand, those who needed concrete evidence were less likely to believe fabricated news.

“While trusting your gut may be beneficial in some situations, it turns out that putting faith in intuition over evidence leaves us susceptible to misinformation,” said Weeks.

Garrett pointed out that it is important to acknowledge that people’s beliefs are not based solely upon political predispositions.

“Misperceptions don’t always arise because people are blinded by what their party or favorite news outlet is telling them,” he said.

Garrett added that, “Making an effort to base your beliefs on evidence is an easy way to help avoid being misled.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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