Thinking false and slow: Implausible beliefs and the Cognitive Reflection Test

Psychon Bull Rev. 2023 Dec;30(6):2387-2396. doi: 10.3758/s13423-023-02321-2. Epub 2023 Jun 27.


Why do people believe implausible claims like conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and fake news? Past studies using the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) suggest that implausible beliefs may result from an unwillingness to effortfully process information (i.e., cognitive miserliness). Our analysis (N = 664) tests this account by comparing CRT performance (total score, number and proportion of incorrect intuitive responses, and completion time) for endorsers and non-endorsers of implausible claims. Our results show that endorsers performed worse than non-endorsers on the CRT, but they took significantly longer to answer the questions and did not make proportionally more intuitive mistakes. Endorsers therefore appear to process information effortfully but nonetheless score lower on the CRT. Poorer overall CRT performance may not necessarily indicate that those who endorse implausible beliefs have a more reflexive, intuitive, or non-analytical cognitive style than non-endorsers.

Keywords: Analytic thinking; Cognitive reflection test; Conspiracy theories; Fake news; Intuition; Misinformation.

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Reflection*
  • Humans
  • Intuition* / physiology
  • Personality
  • Thinking / physiology