Enhancing Public Resistance to “Fake News”: A Review of the Problem and Strategic Solutions1

Marcus W. Mayorga, Erin B. Hester, Emily Helsel, Bobi Ivanov, Timothy L. Sellnow, Paul Slovic, William J. Burns, Dale Frakes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We are awash in information but are losing our ability to separate fact, fiction, and opinion. The spread of misinformation online has been named one of the top ten challenges facing the world today. This review describes the impacts of fake news, the psychological, social, ideological, and institutional factors that make people susceptible to being deceived, and the multifaceted efforts to combat this “information warfare.” We conclude that it is unlikely that any single approach would be successful in significantly curbing the effect and spreading of “fake news.” In fact, it may take a combination of many different approaches (both human and robotic), drawn from many different disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, behavioral economics, communication, computer science, epidemiology, etc.) to overcome the shortcomings of any single method discussed in this chapter. We give special consideration to a strategy based on a theory of inoculation that arms the individual with motivation to think critically, some relevant defense material (content), and guided practice in the defense of one’s attitudes. Recent research has shown that inoculation also boosts the individual’s perceived self-efficacy, attitude certainty and accessibility, associative networks, affect, issue (topic or attitude) involvement, and source derogation. We suggest that inoculation is a robust strategy that can be used to counter not only the negative effects of “fake news, " but also attitude polarization. More research is needed to determine effective strategies in preventing the spread of false information with intent to harm. Vigilance and detection training for the public and media systems, including inoculation, appear to be valuable tools, but need additional testing in applied settings. The expanding interest in automated or hybrid human-computer detection systems are a good sign that the tech industry is adapting to the faults of current protocols to thwart “fake news.”.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Applied Communication Research
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1: Volume 2
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781119399926
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Published 2020 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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