MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

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, an international team of researchers 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.

The authors concluded that 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.

People who have followed the discussions on this blog closely could be forgiven in assuming that right-wing political devotion also plays an important role in spreading misinformation about healthcare (e.g. vaccination) and so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). It would be good, if someone could test this hypothesis more directly.

PS

Just as I had finished writing this post, I came across a quote given yesterday by Ben Habib on GBN:

“I’m very reluctant to put my destiny in the hands of scientists. You know, unbridled authority given to faux knowledge.”

QED

7 Responses to The role of right-wing political devotion in sharing misinformation

  • Online misinformation is disproportionality created and spread by people with extreme political attitudes, especially among the far-right.

    It’s all down to reality’s liberal bias.

  • “I’m very reluctant to put my destiny in the hands of scientists. You know, unbridled authority given to faux knowledge.”

    The version I hear of this, almost daily and from liberals too, is “…yes, but science doesn’t know everything..” The “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” crowd is fond of this approach as well. This quip was the response of an otherwise dear and well-educated (arts) lady who firmly believes in reiki and another who is very attached to her chiropractor. Also a guy who swears by dry needling. It is everywhere and supported entirely by anecdote–the great enemy of reason.

  • “Online misinformation is disproportionality created and spread by people with extreme political attitudes, especially among the far-right.” – says the far-left.

    Hence the general rule: never opine!

  • You are a scientist, at least you have stated this, to all us readers of blog for my 10 yrs. What gives? A hard right or hard left are equal on misinformation, they are activists, equal for their simple minds. I am just amazed, at least 3 articles you posted this year against conservative politicians. Are you an activist? A person of your great mind should understand, this is hogwash, you are losing me as a partial person.
    Yes, we have idiots who lean too much on their beliefs.
    I have caught you on 5 things last 2 years, posting stuff that is not analytical, misinformation. Not scientific research by normal standards.

  • Why are you trying to divide your readers, fans, with political bias. You will lose half of us. I know you do not believe this and think your audience is pure left, you are so wrong. Your bias is very shown, maybe we should just move along?
    Do you really think half your audience does not research?

  • Perhaps holding conspiracy theory beliefs moves people towards the right. I’ve observed locally that some I’ve argued with for years over their anthroposophical beliefs have become very vocal promoters of The Light. These are people who saw, and maybe still see, themselves as being left wing Corbyn supporters. Many are keen on biodynamic growing so also consider themselves environmentally minded. Yet here they are on the streets every weekend pushing an extreme right wing paper with its denial of climate change, racism, Covid conspiracy theories and the rest.

    It seems each bit of nonsense you adopt makes the next easier.

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