The psychology of misinformation — the mental shortcuts, confusions, and illusions that encourage us to believe things that aren’t true — can tell us a lot about how to prevent its harmful effects. Our psychology is what affects whether corrections work, what we should teach in media literacy courses, and why we’re vulnerable to misinformation in the first place. It’s also a fascinating insight into the human brain.
Though psychological concepts originate in academia, many have found their way into everyday language. Cognitive dissonance, first described in 1957, is one; confirmation bias is another. And this is part of the problem. Just as we have armchair epidemiologists, we can easily become armchair cognitive scientists, and mischaracterization of these concepts can create new forms of misinformation.