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Misinformation and Morality: Encountering Fake-News Headlines Makes Them Seem Less Unethical to Publish and Share.

Authors
  • Effron, Daniel A1
  • Raj, Medha2
  • 1 Organisational Behaviour Subject Area, London Business School.
  • 2 Management and Organization Department, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychological Science
Publisher
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
Volume
31
Issue
1
Pages
75–87
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/0956797619887896
PMID: 31751517
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

People may repeatedly encounter the same misinformation when it "goes viral." The results of four main experiments (two preregistered) and a pilot experiment (total N = 2,587) suggest that repeatedly encountering misinformation makes it seem less unethical to spread-regardless of whether one believes it. Seeing a fake-news headline one or four times reduced how unethical participants thought it was to publish and share that headline when they saw it again-even when it was clearly labeled as false and participants disbelieved it, and even after we statistically accounted for judgments of how likeable and popular it was. In turn, perceiving the headline as less unethical predicted stronger inclinations to express approval of it online. People were also more likely to actually share repeated headlines than to share new headlines in an experimental setting. We speculate that repeating blatant misinformation may reduce the moral condemnation it receives by making it feel intuitively true, and we discuss other potential mechanisms that might explain this effect.

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