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Is that News "Fake" or Simply Biased?

In an era of concern over "fake news," a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin finds that people draw a distinction between information sources that are dishonest and those that are biased. A source seen as biased may lose credibility with people, even if they believe the source is scrupulously honest. That means untruthful--or "fake"--news is not the only issue for consumers. "If you want to be seen as a credible source, you have to be objective, as well as honest and knowledgeable," says lead study author Laura Wallace, postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Ohio State University, Columbus.

The findings are significant because most research has suggested that source credibility is a combination of trustworthiness and expertise. Bias had not been considered, or at least was viewed as part of trustworthiness.

Bias may damage credibility, just as untrustworthiness does., but that does not mean that bias and untrustworthiness always have the same consequences. "In the case of biased but honest sources, the information they present might only support one side of the issue, but at least people can treat the information as useful for understanding that side.

"Untrustworthy sources may never be that useful."

In addition, the difference between a biased source and an untrustworthy one has a big impact if the source changes positions. The researchers found that, when untrustworthy sources change their position, it does not make them any more or less persuasive.

"Untrustworthy sources are seen as unpredictable," notes Wallace. "You can't tell what position they are going to take and it is not seen as meaning anything if they flip-flop."

However, the study found that it was quite surprising when biased sources changed positions on an issue. This surprise had a positive effect on persuasion. "People believe there must be new evidence that is really compelling to get a biased source to change positions and take the opposite side.

"So there are sometimes differences in how effective biased sources are compared to untrustworthy ones."

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Title Annotation:MASS MEDIA
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2019
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