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Study finds 3 in 4 Americans overestimate their ability to identify fake news

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Posted at 9:18 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 12:20:08-04

As many as three in four Americans overestimate their ability to identify fake headlines, according to a study published this week. Researchers found those who falsely believe they can identify false news are more likely to fall victim to it and share it with others.

The study looked at responses to large surveys, filled out by more than 8,200 people. The surveys asked people to evaluate the accuracy of a series of Facebook headlines and then rate their own abilities to pick out the fake news content.

The lead author, Ben Lyons from the University of Utah, used this information to assess a person’s confidence level in identifying fake news and their ability to actually pick it out.

"If people incorrectly see themselves as highly skilled at identifying false news, they may unwittingly be more likely to consume, believe and share it, especially if it conforms to their worldview,” Lyons stated.

About 90% of respondents said they were above average in their ability to discern between false and legitimate news headlines, according to a release from the university.

"Our results paint a worrying picture. Many people are simply unaware of their own vulnerability to misinformation,” Lyons said.

"Though Americans believe confusion caused by false news is extensive, relatively few indicate having seen or shared it.”

The study did not look into the underlying cause of a person's overconfidence in their ability to spot fake news stories.

The study was published in the Proceedings of National Academics of Sciences.