Us Versus Them: The Role of National Identity in the Formation of False Memories for Fake News

Treasa Delaney, Laura Castillo, Maximilian A. Friehs, Benjamin Buttlar, Ciara Greene*

*Corresponding author for this work

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People are prone to forming false memories for fictitious events described in fake news stories. In this preregistered study, we hypothesized that the formation of false memories may be promoted when the fake news includes stereotypes that reflect positively on one’s own nationality or negatively on another nationality. We exposed German and Irish participants (N = 1,184) to fabricated news stories that were consistent with positive or negative stereotypes about Germany and Ireland. The predicted three-way interaction was not observed. Exploratory follow-up analyses revealed the expected pattern of results for German participants but not for Irish participants, who were more likely to remember positive stories and stories about Ireland. Individual differences in patriotism did not significantly affect false memory rates; however, higher levels of cognitive ability and analytical reasoning decreased false memories and increased participants’ ability to distinguish between true and false news stories. These results demonstrate that stereotypical information pertaining to national identity can influence the formation of false memories for fake news, but variations in cultural context may affect how misinformation is received and processed. We conclude by urging researchers to consider the sociopolitical and media landscape when predicting the consequences of fake news exposure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 30 Mar 2023


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