Who is truly most susceptible to misinformation? According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the answer may surprise you. The study is published in a recent volume of Behavior Research Methods.
When you hear the term “misinformation,” a million things probably come to mind. That’s because misinformation has become an increasingly common phenomenon, particularly given the ubiquity of social media and digital information technologies. Misinformation has become notorious for playing a role in circulating misleading or deceptive information in the public sphere, creating divisions and leading to policy making driven by inaccurate information.
The importance of digital literacy, for example, has become all the more important as a way to help people identify misinformation and analyze information online. According to researchers, however, it’s actually Gen Z and millennials. who were more susceptible to misinformation. This is contrary to popular belief, which suggests that older adults (such as baby boomers) are more likely to be misled by false information online because it is perceived that they lack a certain level of digital savvy.
Specifically, researchers tested one of the first validated tests, called MIST, which is designed to determine how susceptible someone is to misinformation. The test is a short quiz and was previously validated in various studies involving over 8,000 people.
Overall, researchers found that about two thirds of participants were able to correctly determine whether a headline was correct or false. However, further analysis showed that younger adults—particularly those in the millennial and Gen Z generations, were less effective at determining which headlines were false.
Researchers found a link between how much time a person spends online for personal or recreational purposes and a reduced ability to correctly identify false headlines.
To create their tool, researchers turned to popular AI tools like ChatGPT to create a range of headlines for participants to rate as true or false. This enabled researchers to create headlines that were false, convincing, and free of any signs of bias.