How You Feel Can Impact What You Share

Written by Lauren Beauchamp with files from Associated Press

“Sensory neuroscience” is a phenomenon that has been around since humans have roamed the planet, but in our modern day worlds it can seriously impact the way we perceive things. When “Fake News” emerged, the mind saw things differently for many reasons. Studies explain how certain parts of the brain have adapted to focusing on emotionally stimulating events.

Dopamine, the hormone and neurotransmitter is linked with reward anticipation and result. In the news, when a subject we are introduced to is addressed, our brains recognise this as a reward, no matter whether the report is true or false.

Fake News & Memory

In fact, most of the fake news triggers a region in the brain known as the substantial nigra/ventral segmental area (SN/VTA), which is linked to the hippocampus and amygdala. These areas have a large impacts on both learning and memory. They trigger both memories and emotional links to them.

Brady and others’ study inspired by US Presidential election and the Arab Spring highlights that unverified information spreads easily by users who share something in common, such as a liberal or conservative group who share similar morals. When we see posts that align with our morals, we are more likely to share them even if they are not true.

Anger, a highly rousing emotion, tends to make one more likely to pass things on, while sadness is deactivating. Surprises can also stimulate the brain to react in a certain way, therefore causing someone to immediately hit ‘share’ when they haven’t cross-checked an article with any other sources.

A study published in Physiological Science showed that propaganda may result in false memories of events. The participants were shown news stories, two out of four untrue from the 2018 referendum on abortion in Ireland. About half of the people had a false memory of one of the events that did not actually happen.

There are fortunately news organisations such as Associated Press that have a Fact Checking teams which provides a weekly roundup of ‘Fake News’ and the facts to help uncover falsely spread information.

Fake news will use tactics and wording to incite the spread on social media. What can we do to make sure we don’t share disinformation when emotionally triggered? Head over to our list of tips to verify the sources of information here.

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