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Why are some people fascinated by fake news?

The term “fake news” has made its way into mainstream vocabulary. Though misinformation has always existed, social media has played a major role in how information can be communicated and manipulated. The ways in which we respond is determined by our brains. 

Dr. Andrea Grignolio from National Research Council (CNR, Italy), Dr. Ciara Greene from University College Dublin, and Dr. Maria Antonietta De Luca from the University of Cagliari will discuss the role that neuroscience can play in helping us better understand fake news on July 11, 2022 at the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) 2022 Forum.

The event aims to support further understanding of fake news development. The forum will also explore the behaviors associated with fake news and the brain areas and neurotransmitters associated with those behaviors.

Studies have shown that unexpected information may be processed differently than information that we have already become familiar with. Fake news often involves attention-grabbing or shocking propositions that make it appealing and help it to spread quickly. 

When we encounter novelty, a link is made to motivation since dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with anticipation and reward, increases. 

The panel of experts at the event will consider recently published papers and peer review work to unpack the creation and spread of fake news. The following polarized events will be considered:

  • Ireland’s abortion referendum
  • Brexit
  • The Covid-19 pandemic

By looking at these divisive political issues, researchers were able to identify some interesting insights:

  • People are most susceptible to forming false memories for fake news that aligns with their beliefs, particularly if they have low cognitive ability
  • Individuals with better knowledge about a given subject matter showed better discrimination between true and false stories
  • Warnings about possible misinformation did not have any significant effect

While fake news can be focused on political topics, it is also used to manipulate subjects such as vaccines, GMOs, climate change, renewable energies and so-called alternative therapies for severe health issues. It is critical to understand this phenomenon and the detrimental effects that fake news can have on our individual beliefs, attitudes as well as societies at large.

The FENS Forum features a scientific programme covering all aspects of neuroscience, from basic to translational research. Over the course of five days, attendees will have unprecedented access to a range of symposia, technical workshops, plenary and special lectures like these as well as poster sessions and more.

By Katherine Bucko, Staff Writer

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