Evaluative Mindsets and the Influence of False Information


People are exposed to inaccurate claims and ideas every day, from sources intended to inform, entertain, or do both. A large body of research has demonstrated that exposure to inaccurate statements, even when conveying obviously false ideas, can affect people’s subsequent judgments. Contemporary accounts suggest that these effects may be due to people’s failure to evaluate information during exposure, increasing the likelihood that false information will be encoded and available for retrieval on subsequent tasks. The goal of this dissertation is to better understand how the task goals and mindsets people adopt when comprehending information affect the likelihood they are influenced by false claims and ideas. In Chapter 1, we demonstrate that deliberately evaluating the accuracy of information can reduce reproductions of inaccuracies, as well as encourage people’s use of correct prior knowledge. In Chapter 2, we examine whether people can be encouraged to develop and maintain evaluative mindsets without explicit instruction. Specifically, we test whether confronting people with their susceptibility to inaccurate information can prompt evaluative mindsets, thereby reducing the extent to which they are influenced by false claims. In Chapter 3, we explore how both evaluative and non-evaluative tasks and mindsets might differentially affect the influence of inaccuracies presented on social media. Understanding the circumstances that encourage and discourage evaluation can offer insight into processes underlying people’s susceptibility to false information, and can inform the design of real-world applications intended to support a better informed society.

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