These days, one of the biggest topics is how groups of people end up collectively believing in fake news. The spread of fake news has been attributed to many things including social media, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of other elements at play. How our social structures work have a lot to do with us believing in things in spite of the fact that they are proven to be untrue with a rather easy search on the internet. There are four main reasons why we end up picking sides and making decisions against our better judgment.
The first of these four reasons is confirmation bias. With confirmation bias, your beliefs make you weigh evidence proving your point more heavily than evidence to the contrary. Thus, your beliefs are not objectively better than or even equal to other beliefs, it’s just you believing in them that makes you lean so heavily towards them. Confirmation bias makes us look at news and accept it immediately if it confirms our side of the story, and we tend to reject news that disproves our beliefs as well without fully considering whether or not it could actually be valid.
Groupthink is another big reason why so many people start believing fake news at the same time. Groupthink refers to the process by which an individual within a group would fail to raise doubts or questions about a particular topic or belief because of the fact that they don’t want to rock the boat. As individuals we all fear being ostracized by our group, we are all social animals and we all need to feel like we have something to give to our group, and if nothing else we want our group to have our compliance. Hence, people tend to stifle their own opinions and go with the opinion of the group, which further contributes to the spreading of fake news.
One more reason that fake news tends to spread a lot is group attribution error. This often works in conjunction with groupthink or confirmation bias. Group attribution error occurs when you see the actions of one individual and generalize them. You assume that if one individual behaves in a certain way, all members of their group will behave the exact same way. This leads to people spreading fake news based on their attribution errors since this contributes to confirmation bias a lot.
Finally, we have social conformity. The thing about conformity is that it is often necessary for social advancement, which is something that most people are looking to acquire. Since social conformity requires you to obey the beliefs of your group, you tend to play along just to fit in. However, as time goes by you are going to realize that you actually start believing a lot of it. Anyone can be seduced by fake news, you just have to believe in something enough for all of these biases to come into play.