Friday, March 24, 2017

Why Fake News Spreads: A Neurological Explanation


 BY PATRICK TUCKER


Understanding our neurological superpowers and social pain.


If efforts by foreign powers to influence American society via disinformation — like the “fake news” that spread during last year’s presidential election — are rising as a national-security concern, then we need to know why such antics work. How does an adversarial government go about persuading an entire population that something is true, or that one truth is more important or relevant than another?  
Recent research into the roots of persuasion in the brain yields some important clues about how people  are convinced to propagate news that is not true or poorly sourced. Bottom line: fake news appeals directly to the portions of the brain associated with social acceptance.  Activity from those regions has a bigger effect on decision-making than logical argument — like some snobby East Coast news outlet trying to tell you “true” things.
If you haven’t heard of the social brain or the role that it may play in deciding what to news to believe, you’re not alone. We associate most high-level decision making with the very front of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. You could be forgiven for thinking that prefrontal cortex would be the part of the brain we would use to evaluate the authenticity or accuracy of a big national news story.  MORE