Emotional Reaction to Fake News

Learn about the different emotional reactions when coming across fake news.

Human behavior has a tremendous influence on our social, cultural, and economic decisions. Our emotions influence our economy as much as, if not more than, rational thinking. Behavioral economics drives our decision-making process. We buy consumer goods that we physically need and to satisfy our emotional desires. We might even buy a smartphone in the heat of the moment, although it exceeds our budget.

Our emotional and rational reactions to fake news depend on whether we think slowly or react quickly to incoming information. Daniel Kahneman described this process in his research and book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013)The book can be accessed at: http://dspace.vnbrims.org:13000/jspui/bitstream/123456789/2224/1/Daniel-Kahneman-Thinking-Fast-and-Slow-.pdf.

He and Vernon L. Smith were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for behavioral economics research. Behavior drives decisions we previously thought were rational. Many of our decisions are based on emotions, not reason.

Let’s translate these concepts into a behavioral flowchart applied to fake news.

Cognitive dissonance triggers emotional reactions

Cognitive dissonance drives fake news up to the top ranks of X, Facebook, and other social media platforms. If everybody agrees with the content of a post, nothing will happen. If somebody writes a post saying, “Climate change is important,” nobody will react.

We enter a state of cognitive dissonance when tensions build up between contradictory thoughts in our minds. As a result, we become nervous, agitated, and it wears us down like a short-circuit in a toaster.

We have many examples to think about. Is wearing a mask with COVID-19 necessary when we are outdoors? Are lockdowns a good or bad thing? Are the coronavirus vaccines effective? Or are coronavirus vaccines dangerous? Cognitive dissonance is like a musician who keeps making mistakes while playing a simple song. It is very frustrating!

The fake news syndrome increases cognitive dissonance exponentially! One expert will assert that vaccines are safe, and another that we need to be careful. One expert says that wearing a mask outside is useless, and another one asserts on a news channel that we must wear one! Each side accuses the other of fake news!

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