Why do Brains Love Fake News?

Since the US election (2016), discussion of “fake news” has soared at an unprecedented rate. It turns out that fake news may be even more interesting than real news. Facebook was largely blamed for the propagation of false information that influenced the voter’s opinions on Donald Trump and therefore may have been instrumental in the election results. Although Facebook acknowledges their role as a platform for fake news, how it can solve this problem is far from straightforward. Furthermore, much of the Trump news was challenging to decipher from satire, let alone the real news. And there was a lot of satire. Satirical columns couldn’t keep up with the popularity of Trump, here are just a few examples: 1, 2, 3, and a Canadian’s favourite (based on how often it showed up in my feed) 4. And of course, we all saw SNL.

Perhaps Poe’s Law can be applied: many people probably couldn’t tell the difference between satire, fake news, and reality. Finally, the scary part is, that emerging research suggests, once the fake news is out there, the damage is done. Our brains quickly create lasting memories for fake news. It turns out, fake news is very difficult to forget, as Dr. Daniel Levitin outlines in his new book. Suggesting, that even if Facebook manages to take down or flag the misleading information, the fake news propaganda’s goal will have long been met.

Below follows a short article and interview with neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin on his perspective on why fake news sticks, from Canada’s CBC.

Enjoy & Discuss! & most importantly: Think!

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