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Article

Determinants of individuals’ belief in fake news: A scoping review determinants of belief in fake news

Plos One. 2021. Vol. 16. No. 6.
Bryanov K., Vziatysheva V.

Background

Proliferation of misinformation in digital news environments can harm society in a number of ways, but its dangers are most acute when citizens believe that false news is factually accurate. A recent wave of empirical research focuses on factors that explain why people fall for the so-called fake news. In this scoping review, we summarize the results of experimental studies that test different predictors of individuals’ belief in misinformation.

Methods

The review is based on a synthetic analysis of 26 scholarly articles. The authors developed and applied a search protocol to two academic databases, Scopus and Web of Science. The sample included experimental studies that test factors influencing users’ ability to recognize fake news, their likelihood to trust it or intention to engage with such content. Relying on scoping review methodology, the authors then collated and summarized the available evidence.

Results

The study identifies three broad groups of factors contributing to individuals’ belief in fake news. Firstly, message characteristics—such as belief consistency and presentation cues—can drive people’s belief in misinformation. Secondly, susceptibility to fake news can be determined by individual factors including people’s cognitive styles, predispositions, and differences in news and information literacy. Finally, accuracy-promoting interventions such as warnings or nudges priming individuals to think about information veracity can impact judgements about fake news credibility. Evidence suggests that inoculation-type interventions can be both scalable and effective. We note that study results could be partly driven by design choices such as selection of stimuli and outcome measurement.

Conclusions

We call for expanding the scope and diversifying designs of empirical investigations of people’s susceptibility to false information online. We recommend examining digital platforms beyond Facebook, using more diverse formats of stimulus material and adding a comparative angle to fake news research.