Push polls increase false memories for fake news stories

Memory. 2021 Jul;29(6):693-707. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2021.1934033. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


Push polls are an insidious means of disseminating information under the guise of a legitimate information-gathering poll (e.g., "Would you be more or less likely to vote for X if you heard they were being investigated for tax fraud?"). While previous research has shown that push polls can affect attitudes, the current study assessed whether exposure to push polls can increase false memories for corresponding fake news stories. Across four studies, we found that participants (N = 1,290) were significantly more likely to report a false memory for a corresponding fabricated news story after push poll exposure. This was true for positive and negative stories, concerning both fictitious characters and well-known public figures. Furthermore, this effect was stronger after a delay of one week between the push poll and the news story. Our findings suggest that push polls are a potent applied example of the misinformation effect and can significantly increase susceptibility to fake news stories.

Keywords: False memory; misinformation; politics; push poll.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Deception*
  • Hearing
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Politics