The Role of Political Devotion in Sharing Partisan Misinformation and Resistance to Fact-Checking

Clara Pretus*, Camila Servin-Barthet, Elizabeth A. Harris, William J. Brady, Oscar Vilarroya, Jay J. Van Bavel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Online misinformation is disproportionality created and spread by people with extreme political attitudes, especially among the far-right. There is a debate in the literature about why people spread misinformation and what should be done about it. According to the purely cognitive account, people largely spread misinformation because they are lazy, not biased. According to a motivational account, people are also motivated to believe and spread misinformation for ideological and partisan reasons. To better understand the psychological and neurocognitive processes that underlie misinformation sharing among the far-right, we conducted a cross-cultural experiment with conservatives and far-right partisans in the Unites States and Spain (N= 1,609) and a neuroimaging study with far-right partisans in Spain (N = 36). Far-right partisans in Spain and U.S. Republicans who highly identify with Trump were more likely to share misinformation than center-right voters and other Republicans, especially when the misinformation was related to sacred values (e.g., immigration). Sacred values predicted misinformation sharing above and beyond familiarity, attitude strength, and salience of the issue. Moreover, far-right partisans were unresponsive to fact-checking and accuracy nudges. At a neural level, this group showed increased activity in brain regions implicated in mentalizing and norm compliance in response to posts with sacred values. These results suggest that the two components of political devotion—identity fusion and sacred values—play a key role in misinformation sharing, highlighting the identity-affirming dimension of misinformation sharing. We discuss the need for motivational and identity-based interventions to help curb misinformation for high-risk partisan groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3116-3134
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume152
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 22 2023

Keywords

  • fact-checking
  • identity fusion
  • misinformation
  • sacred values
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology

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