According to the study, older adults are more likely to be fooled by “fake news” than younger ones

According to researchers at the University of Florida, older people have a harder time distinguishing “fake news” from reality. Photo by kaboompics/Pixabay

Older adults are no more likely to believe fake news than younger adults, except for the very oldest, a new study finds.

Falling for fake news can have significant physical, emotional and financial consequences, particularly for older adults who may have their life savings or serious medical problems at stake, the researchers said.

“We wanted to see if there was an age difference in determining whether news is true or false,” said lead author Didem Pehlivanoglu, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

“We wanted to look at this specifically because we know that most people’s cognitive abilities decline as they age. But we also know that some information processing skills are preserved or even improved,” Pehlivanoglu said in a university press release.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, was conducted between May and October 2020. It included a group of older adults, ages 61 to 87, and a group of college students.

Participants were asked to read and rate 12 full-length news articles on COVID-19 and non-COVID topics. Some of the items were genuine and some were fake.

According to the study, older and young adults were similarly able to spot fake news. The findings were published online May 2 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Both groups were less likely to identify fake news about COVID-19 than news unrelated to the pandemic. This could be due to the low familiarity with COVID-related information in the early months of the pandemic, the researchers suggested.

“People have the idea that older adults consistently underperform young adults, but that’s not the case,” said study co-author Brian Cahill, a psychology professor at the University of Florida.

The study found adults over 70 were less likely to spot fake news about COVID-19 or other topics. But that’s probably because they didn’t look as closely at the information or pay attention to details, the study authors added.

The investigators found that people are only particularly susceptible to fake news and other misinformation at a very old age – when a decline in the ability to think can no longer be compensated for by life experience and knowledge of the world.

Study co-author Natalie Ebner, a psychology professor at the university, said: “This is a particularly high-risk demographic, and they are at high risk of making wrong decisions, not just for themselves but for society as a whole. ”

More information

The Stanford Center on Longevity has more on digital literacy for older adults.

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