As many as three in four Americans overestimate their ability to spot fake headlines, making them more vulnerable to disinformation, found a recent study by the University of Utah.
The survey, involving 8,200 participants, was aimed at examining the public's susceptibility to false news due to their inability to recognise their own limitations in identifying such information. It did so by asking the participants to evaluate the accuracy of a series of Facebook headlines and then rate their own abilities to discern false news content.
Researchers used these two measures to assess overconfidence among respondents and how it is related to beliefs and behaviours and found that individuals who firmly believe they are able to identify false news are more likely to fall victim to it.
The study revealed that about 90 per cent of respondents reported they had an above-average ability to discern between false and legitimate news headlines. The survey found three in four individuals overestimated their ability to distinguish between real and fake news headlines.
"Our results paint a worrying picture. Many people are simply unaware of their own vulnerability to misinformation,” said Ben Lyons, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah. "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,” he said.
Using data measuring respondents' online behaviour, the researchers also show that those who overrate their ability more frequently visit websites known for spreading false or misleading news.
“These overconfident respondents are also less able to distinguish between true and false claims about current events and report higher willingness to share false content, especially when it aligns with their political leanings,” he added.
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