People with high emotional intelligence less likely to fall for ‘fake news’

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Misinformation and fake news continue to be a major problem across social media platforms. Now, a new study reports people with high emotional intelligence are much less likely to fall for deceptive and untrue news items.

Conducted at the University of Strathclyde, the study asked a group of volunteers to take a look at various social media news stories, some true and some false. The group then tried to determine which were real and which were fictitious. Each participant also gave a short explanation as to their fact-checking thought process and filled out a test to gauge their emotional intelligence.

The news stories presented to participants covered a variety of topics, including health, the environment, crime, and wealth inequality. The fake headlines in particular featured a lack of trusted sources, not a lot of information in general, and emotive language.

What do different people say about fake news?

Ultimately, participants scoring high on the emotional intelligence test were most likely to accurately pick out fake news items. Study authors also noted a similar relationship between education level and fake news detecting ability. In other words, participants with more education appear to have a better eye for spotting fake news.

“Fake news on social media is now a matter of considerable public and governmental concern. Research on dealing with this issue is still in its infancy but recent studies have started to focus on the psychological factors which might make some individuals less susceptible to fake news,” says Dr. Tony Anderson, Senior Teaching Fellow in Psychology at Strathclyde, in a university release.

“We assessed whether people were better able to disregard the emotionally charged content of such items and better equipped to assess the veracity of the information. We found that, while distinguishing real news content from fake was challenging, on average participants were more likely to make the correct decision than not,” the researcher adds. “Previous research has shown that people can be trained to enhance their own EQ levels. This should help them to discern with a greater degree of accuracy which news is reliable and which is misleading.”

Study authors also included some quotes from participants. Some statements made by those who fell for fake news items include “the commenter on the post has the same thoughts as me” and “my kids are in this position so I completely get this.”

Meanwhile, subjects who correctly identified fake news told researchers “comes across as more of a rant” and “fearmongering article with no data.”

The study is published in PLOS ONE.