One high-profile theory of why people share fake news says that they aren’t paying sufficient attention. The proposed solution is therefore to nudge people in the right direction. For example, “accuracy primes” – short reminders intended to shift people’s attention towards the accuracy of the news content they come across online – can be built into social media sites.
But does this work? Accuracy primes do not teach people any new skills to help them determine whether a post is real or fake. And there could be other reasons, beyond just a lack of attention, that leads people to share fake news, such as political motivations. Our new research, published in Psychological Science, suggests primes aren’t likely to reduce misinformation by much, in isolation. Our findings offer important insights into how to best combat fake news and misinformation online.