Exposure to fake news stories can result in false memories for the events portrayed, and this effect can be enhanced if the stories conform to the reader’s ideological position. We exposed 1299 UK residents to fabricated news stories about Brexit. 44% of participants reported a false memory for at least one fabricated story, with a higher rate of false memories for stories that reflected poorly on the opposing side. This effect of ideological congruency was somewhat greater among participants who were exposed to a threat to their social identity as a Leave or Remain supporter; however, this moderating effect was only statistically significant in exploratory analyses using a more conservative definition of false memory. Participants with higher cognitive ability and analytical reasoning scores were less susceptible to false memories. Individuals with better knowledge about Brexit showed better discrimination between true and false stories, while self-reported engagement with the Brexit debate was associated with an increased tendency to ‘remember’ any story, regardless of its truth. These results implicate a combination of social and individual factors in the development of false memories from fake news, and suggest that exposure to social identity threats may enhance the polarising effects of fake news.
Bibliographical noteThis is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Memory. Ciara M. Greene, Robert A. Nash & Gillian Murphy (2021) Misremembering Brexit: partisan bias and individual predictors of false memories for fake news stories among Brexit voters, Memory. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
- False memory
- analytical reasoning
- fake news
- motivated reasoning