Religious fundamentalism, dogmatism linked to false beliefs

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As humans, we can’t help but sometimes believe things that are not true. Sometimes this is relatively harmless: believing in Santa Claus, for example, is not so damaging. But other times, false beliefs – like thinking climate change is a Chinese hoax – can harm society as a whole. New research from Yale University shows that some people are more likely to adopt these false beliefs than others.

Michael Bronstein, a Yale psychology graduate student, is the first author of the new study in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, in which he and his colleagues identify the characteristics that lead a person to believe in fake news. Their analysis identified two groups of people who display certain thought patterns that could be dangerous, given the wrong information. People prone to delusions, for example, believe more in fake news than in real news, just like two other types of people.

“In our study, we found that the correlation between greater belief in fake news and greater dogmatism, as well as religious fundamentalism, could be fully explained statistically by the less analytical cognitive style of these individuals,” Bronstein explains. . Reverse. “This statistical result is consistent with the idea that less engagement in analytical thinking could potentially lead to greater belief in fake news in these people.”

Religious fundamentalists and dogmatic individuals, who are characterized by their less analytical cognitive style, might “engage in hypothetical and laborious thinking less often and therefore might more often reason according to their intuitions,” he says. These people, the team theorizes, are not predisposed to engage in delusions and fake news, but their cognitive style might leave them “particularly inclined” to approve of fake news. An analytical person, on the other hand, puts more effort into their thoughts as they override the default responses driven by intuition.

The team tested their theory by giving two groups of participants – one group of 502 individuals and another of 446 – a news assessment task. Participants reviewed 12 fake and 12 real headlines in random order and were asked to rate the accuracy of each headline based on how well they thought the headline described real news.

Example of fake news stimuli – both headlines here are fake.Bronstein et. Al.

Meanwhile, participants also took surveys to gauge their cognitive style, level of religious fundamentalism, and how delusional and dogmatic they are. The team defines a dogmatic person as someone who has enormous confidence in what they believe and are unlikely to revise that belief, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. “Don Quixote comes to mind as an example of a dogmatic individual,” says Bronstein.

The team’s analysis of the data supported their theory that people with less analytical cognitive styles are more vulnerable to false beliefs and may also be more prone to delusion, according to previous research. Additionally, the data revealed that people who are more dogmatic and participate in religious fundamentalism are less good at “discerning media truth” – in other words, more likely to believe fake news.

Interestingly, although less analytical people were more likely to believe in fake news headlines, they were “no more likely to believe in real news headlines,” the team writes.

Fake news, for its part, has fatigued the nation and has been militarized for politics. An April poll found that, of 803 people polled, 77% said they believed the mainstream media was deliberately reporting fake news. But fake news, despite what the name suggests, can mean different things to different people. In this poll, only 25% defined it narrowly as the dissemination of factually incorrect information. Others defined fake news as more of a prejudice – a conscious choice to show only one side of a situation.

“By examining the factors that have been associated with several types of false beliefs, we could better understand why people approve of false beliefs and why they often persist in those beliefs despite the evidence against them,” says Bronstein.

Fortunately, just because someone is inclined to believe fake news doesn’t mean they’re stuck in their tracks forever, Bronstein says. He explains that being subject to illusion is the result of the interaction between genes and the environment in which a person lives. There isn’t much a person can do about their genetics, but their environment – the way they consciously and unconsciously interacts with the world around them – can be modulated by therapies that encourage a more analytical cognitive style.

Bronstein understands that one of the challenges of consuming information through social media is that it can be overwhelming. The deluge of information means it’s hard to look at it all with an open or analytical mind. To avoid falling into the fake news trap, Bronstein recommends consuming information from “a source known to regularly and carefully review its stories, rather than just reading and accepting what is shared through social media.”

“It’s important to note that you can prevent others from falling into the fake news trap,” Bronstein says. “Research suggests that just being exposed to fake news can increase your self-confidence. Thus, people may be able to help others avoid falling into fake news by analytically thinking about the news they share on social media, which can help them avoid inadvertently sharing fake news. new.

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