New research in Psychological Science has found that votes create “false memories after seeing fabricated news stories, especially if those stories align with their political beliefs.”
“In highly emotional, partisan political contests, such as the 2020 US Presidential election, voters may ‘remember’ entirely fabricated news stories,” said lead author Gillian Murphy of University College Cork. “In particular, they are likely to ‘remember’ scandals that reflect poorly on the opposing candidate.”
From the release:
Nearly half of the respondents reported a memory for at least one of the made-up events; many of them recalled rich details about a fabricated news story. The individuals in favor of legalizing abortion were more likely to remember a falsehood about the referendum opponents; those against legalization were more likely to remember a falsehood about the proponents. Many participants failed to reconsider their memory even after learning that some of the information could be fictitious. And several participants recounted details that the false news reports did not include.?
“This demonstrates the ease 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,” Murphy said.
The worst part? The cognitive ability of the viewer has an affect on the outcome of fake news.
“Participants who scored lower on the cognitive test were no more prone to forming false memories than were higher scorers, but low scorers were more likely to remember false stories that aligned with their opinions,” wrote the researchers.