Social Media and Fake News: Factors That Affect How Misinformation Is Shared, Accepted, and Remembered 

Temler, M. (University of Sydney), Paterson, H. M. (University of Sydney) 

The unprecedented spread of misinformation and ‘fake news’ via social media is a significant problem in today’s technological society (Lewandowsky, Ecker & Cook, 2017). Although ‘fake news’ is not a novel concept, the socially interactive online environment has changed its format and consumption. Vast exposure to various content, sources, and opinions has enabled active participation in news selection, engagement, and distribution. It is therefore imperative we understand the specific factors that influence how ‘fake news’ is shared, accepted and remembered across different platforms. In this online survey 850 participants answered free recall, multiple choice and true/false questions assessing their knowledge of and belief in previously circulated true and false news stories. They then completed a number of scales measuring confidence, social media usage and behaviour, political group ideology, beliefs, attitudes, personality traits, and cognitive abilities. Findings reveal social media usage and behaviour, group affiliation and a number of individual factors predict the spread and maintenance of misinformation.  Results are discussed with the aim to help researchers understand how and why people come to spread and maintain misinformation from ‘fake news’ stories. This is crucial in this age where misinformation is prevalent and where technology and society are evolving rapidly. 


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Memory Research Symposium