Aging and fake news: It’s not the story you think it is

Aging and fake news: It’s not the story you think it is

UF News
Brooke Adams

Not being able to distinguish fake news from real news can have serious consequences for a person’s physical, emotional and financial well-being — especially for older adults, who in general have more financial assets and must make more high-stakes health decisions.

So how good are older adults at detecting fake news?

A new study has found that older adults are no more likely to fall for fake news than younger adults, with age-related susceptibility to deceptive news evident only among those categorized as the “oldest old.”

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Central Florida during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, was published May 2 by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

The research is the first to delineate the role of analytical reasoning, affect and news consumption frequency on detection of fake news in older adults across a broad age range as well as in direct comparison to young adults.

“We wanted to see if there was an age difference in determining whether news is true versus false,” said Didem Pehlivanoglu, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at UF. “We specifically wanted to look at this because we know that with aging most people show some decline in their cognitive abilities. But we also know some information processing abilities are preserved or even improved.”

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