Not being able to distinguish false information from real news can have serious consequences for a person''s physical, emotional, and financial well-being, especially for older adults, who, in general, have more financial assets and must make more high-stakes health decisions.
How beneficial are elderly people in detecting fake news?
A new survey has found that older adults aren''t more likely to fall for fake news than younger adults, with age-related vulnerability to misleading information only among those labeled as the oldest old.
During the early stage of the COVID-19 epidemic, researchers at the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Central Florida published the study on May 2 by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
The findings are the first to delineate the importance of analytical reasoning, impact, and news consumption frequency in detecting fake news in older adults across a broad age range as well as in direct comparison to young adults.
According to Didem Pehlivanoglu, a leading author and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, we wanted to investigate this because we know that with age most individuals exhibit some decline in their cognitive abilities. However, we also know that certain information processing abilities are preserved or even enhanced.
While some previous research highlighted that older adults shared misleading information more often than before the 2016 presidential election. However, the significant increase in misinformation during the COVID-19 epidemic has heightened concern, given that the virus has been particularly deadly for older adults.
Is this the right thing? People have the perception that older adults will perform better than young adults across the board, but it is not the case, according to Brian Cahill, a co-author and psychology professor at UF.
As a group, older adults tend to consume more information than younger adults. These factors may be helpful in older adults.
The researchers set out to investigate age differences in the ability to identify fake news and how analytical reasoning, affect, and news consumption frequency influenced that capacity. The study was conducted between May and October of 2020; the older adults weighed in age from 61 to 87 years and the younger adults were college students.
Participants viewed and evaluated 12 full-length news articles on COVID and non-COVID topics, with six real and six fake stories in each category. Upon reading an article, participants were asked whether the article was real or false and how confident they were in their decision.
The researchers then assessed participants'' analytical reasoning abilities, affect, and news consumption frequency.
Both children and older adults showed a lower ability to detect fake COVID news than everyday fake news, owing to a lack of knowledge at the beginning of the epidemic.
Importantly, however, the more elderly older adults that are those individuals aged 70 years or older showed a reduced ability to detect fake news, whether it be about COVID or another topic, and that decreased ability was associated with levels of analytical reasoning, affect, and news consumption frequency.
Adults in the 70+ age group who had greater positive feedback were most likely to engage in shallow information processing, including not looking closely at information or paying attention to details. It may only be in very late old age, at a time in life when self-confidence cannot be rehabilitated due to lack of cognitive capability, according to the researchers.
According to Natalie Ebner, a co-author and psychology professor at UF, this country is a particularly high-risk population with high expectations for wrong decisionmaking.
According to the organization, these findings have the potential to influence the formulation of decision-supportive actions in order to increase news communication and reduce misinformation throughout the lifespan and in aging.