Fighting Fake News

Enhancing understanding of how people make sense of online information and devising prompts for critical thinking.

The emergence of fake news and misinformation online highlights the difficulty of determining the quality of information distributed through the networked society.

The claims of hackers plotting to influence elections, the rise of anti-vaccination groups and various other potentially dangerous phenomena can all be traced back to the way that information is spread and interpreted online. In many of these cases, the misinformation has been designed to exploit cognitive biases and weaknesses in human cognitive architecture to convince people of an untruth or misconception.

The rise of this phenomenon is linked to societal, economic, technical and psychological factors. Combating the spread of fake news and misinformation online has become a critical issue and one not easily addressed through any individual discipline or solution.

Building on the track record of the project team and on the emerging literature in this area, we propose to undertake a project to better understand how people come to believe in misinformation and misconceptions in the networked society.

We will then use this information to develop a proof of concept approach using data and analytics to predict when and how to introduce interventions to help people develop skill in critically evaluating the information they are exposed to online. In true interdisciplinary style, the project will involve a series of studies in the laboratory and ‘in the wild’ to determine what psychological factors best explain and predict how people come to believe misinformation in digital environments.

We have already identified confusion, confidence and perceived fluency of the environment as key elements. Once we have confirmed these underlying factors, we seek to find predictors of them in user behaviour in digital environments and test a range of intervention strategies. The project consolidates and builds on work already completed by members of the group.

Research Team


Seed Funding 2017