The evaluation of fake and true news: on the role of intelligence, personality, interpersonal trust, ideological attitudes, and news consumption

Heliyon. 2021 Mar 27;7(3):e06503. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06503. eCollection 2021 Mar.


Individual differences in cognitive abilities and personality help to understand individual differences in various human behaviors. Previous work investigated individual characteristics in light of believing (i.e., misclassifying) fake news. However, only little is known about the misclassification of true news as fake, although it appears equally important to correctly identify fake and true news for unbiased belief formation. An online study with N = 530 (n = 396 men) participants was conducted to investigate performance in a Fake and True News Test in association with i) performance in fluid and crystallized intelligence tests and the Big Five Inventory, and ii) news consumption as a mediating variable between individual characteristics and performance in the Fake and True News Test. Results showed that fluid intelligence was negatively correlated with believing fake news (the association did not remain significant in a regression model); crystallized intelligence was negatively linked to misclassifying true news. Extraversion was negatively and crystallized intelligence was positively associated with fake and true news discernment. The number of different news sources consumed correlated negatively with misclassifying true news and positively with fake and true news discernment. However, no meaningful mediation effect of news consumption was observed. Only interpersonal trust was negatively related to misclassifying both fake and true news as well as positively related to news discernment. The present findings reveal that underlying factors of believing fake news and misclassifying true news are mostly different. Strategies that might help to improve the abilities to identify both fake and true news based on the present findings are discussed.

Keywords: Big Five; Fake News; Intelligence; News Consumption; Personality.

Publication types

  • News