Belief in fake news, responsiveness to cognitive conflict, and analytic reasoning engagement

Michael V. Bronstein, Gordon Pennycook, Lydia Buonomano, Tyrone D. Cannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analytic and intuitive reasoning processes have been implicated as important determinants of belief in (or skepticism of) fake news. However, the underlying cognitive mechanisms that encourage endorsement of fake news remain unclear. The present study investigated cognitive decoupling/response inhibition and the potential role of conflict processing in the initiation of analytic thought about fake news as factors that may facilitate skepticism. A base-rate task was used to test the hypotheses that conflict processing deficits and inefficient response inhibition would be related to stronger endorsement of fake news. In support of these hypotheses, increased belief in fake (but not real) news was associated with a smaller decrease in response confidence in the presence (vs. absence) of conflict and with inefficient (in terms of response latency) inhibition of prepotent responses. Through its support for these hypotheses, the present study advances efforts to determine who will fall for fake news, and why.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-535
Number of pages26
JournalThinking and Reasoning
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Dr. Valerie Thompson for generously sharing her Rethinking Paradigm.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Fake news
  • base-rates
  • dual-process theory
  • metacognition
  • reasoning


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