Tags: Media Bias | fake news | social media | voters | election | disinformation | campaign

Study: 'Fake News' Might Create False Memories

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(Mark Lennihan/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 22 August 2019 05:16 PM

"Fake news" influences voters and can lead people to form false memories if such reports align with their political beliefs, according to a study released Thursday by American and Irish researchers.

Based on their study of voters in the week leading up to the Irish referendum on abortion in May 2018, researchers concluded that people are more likely to form false memories — and support preconceived notions — if the reports elicit an emotional response.

The study defined fake news as "misinformation and fabricated stories, especially those posted on social media" — and researchers concluded that such reports will have such an effect on U.S. voters in the 2020 election.

"In highly emotional, partisan political contests, such as the 2020 U.S. presidential election, voters may 'remember' entirely fabricated news stories," Gillian Murphy, lead author of the study by the University College Cork in Ireland, said in announcing the study's findings.

"In particular, they are likely to 'remember' scandals that reflect poorly on the opposing candidate," she said.

Elizabeth Loftus, a top memory researcher at the University of California-Irvine, was part of the team conducting the study, which was published research in Psychological Science of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study was also reported by StudyFinds.com.

The Irish referendum on abortion was held on May 25, 2018, and its passage — with 66% of the vote — repealed the 8th amendment to the country's constitution, allowing the government to legislate abortion for the first time in Ireland's history.

For the study, 3,140 potential Irish voters were surveyed — with each being asked about their voting plans heading into the referendum.

Each voter then received six news reports. Two, on political figures on both sides of the debate engaging in illegal or immoral behavior, were totally fabricated.

After reading each of the six articles, voters were queried on whether they had heard of the depicted events — and if so, were asked to recall specific memories.

Participants were then told that some of the news stories they had read were false and asked to identify which ones they believed were so.

Each voter also completed a cognitive test, Study Finds reports.

According to the study, almost half of the voters reported a memory from at least one of the fabricated articles, while many recalled intricate details about at least one fake story.

The study also found that those supporting legalized abortion were more likely to remember a fake claim about anti-abortion figures, and those against legalized abortion were more likely to recall a false memory about pro-abortion supporters, according to the report.

"This demonstrates the ease," Irish researcher Murphy said, "with which we can plant these entirely fabricated memories, despite this voter suspicion and even despite an explicit warning that they may have been shown fake news."

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If such reports align with political beliefs, it can lead people to form false memories, a study released Thursday by American and Irish researchers found, Newsmax's Todd Beamon reports.
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2019-16-22
Thursday, 22 August 2019 05:16 PM
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