Dupes of Bogus Stories: Partisan or Biased?

Yesterday, I posted to a study that found a disproportionate amount bogus news accounts on Twitter came from elderly conservatives. (For reporting about the study, see Older, right-leaning Twitter users spread the most fake news in 2016, study finds.  For the study, see Science, Fake news on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential electionPDF link.)

What about those who are the dupes of bogus stories? Laura Hazard Owen asks Do people fall for fake news because they’re partisan or because they’re lazy? Researchers are divided

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

Where the research splits. Here’s a helpful meta-analysis of the fake news analysis. For The New York Times, psychologists Gordon Pennycook and David Rand, who’ve done plenty of their own fake news research, write:

Much of the debate among researchers falls into two opposing camps. One group claims that our ability to reason is hijacked by our partisan convictions: that is, we’re prone to rationalization. The other group — to which the two of us belong — claims that the problem is that we often fail to exercise our critical faculties: that is, we’re mentally lazy.

However, recent research suggests a silver lining to the dispute: Both camps appear to be capturing an aspect of the problem. Once we understand how much of the problem is a result of rationalization and how much a result of laziness, and as we learn more about which factor plays a role in what types of situations, we’ll be better able to design policy solutions to help combat the problem.

There’s no obvious answer here, and either possibility – or a combination – represents a significant, but not insuperable, obstacle to a well-ordered politics.

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