You’re Extremely Gullible And There’s Probably Not Much You Can Do About It

It’s a scientific fact: humans are really bad at picking out falsehoods. Psychologist Lisa Fazio recently wrote in The Conversation that in one study she had participants read fictional stories that contained both true and false information about the world. Later, participants were given a trivia test with some new questions, and some questions that relate to the information they read in the story. Ultimately, they found participants were more likely to answer certain questions correctly, but they were just as likely to answer questions incorrectly, using the false information they read in the fictional story to guide them. Fazio found having expertise or greater knowledge doesn’t help stop people from being so bad at recognizing lies, nor does giving participants more time to process the information, or even highlighting critical information within a story given to them. The only thing that helped people find lies: telling them to act like a professional fact-checker. Still, Fazio writes, “It’s important to note that even these ‘fact-checking’ readers may miss many of the errors and still learn false information from the stories.” So what’s working against us? Two main things: 1) that people have a general bias to believe that things are true, and 2) people tend to accept information as long as it’s close enough to the correct information.