Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology




Susan Nolan, PhD

Committee Member

Marianne Lloyd, PhD

Committee Member

Susan Teague, PhD


fake news, counterfactual, politics, priming


Fake news overwhelmed social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This new, digital brand of fake news that can be spread much more rapidly than older forms, is coupled with a lack of academic research into its effects, the reasons that certain individuals trust its veracity, and methods of decreasing overall belief in fake news. Confirmation bias is one of several reasons why individuals fall victim to fake news; although there are a few strategies that can be used to combat the negative effects of confirmation bias; counterfactual reasoning is one that has demonstrated success. In the current study, participants were assigned to either a counterfactual priming scenario or a non-counterfactual scenario, before assessing the accuracy of a series of images that all contained verified fake news. Results showed little evidence that the counterfactual prime lowered accuracy judgments about politically congruent images for both left- and right-leaning individuals, but it seemed to be effective with respect to judgments about politically incongruent images. Individual political leaning was the biggest predictor of overall belief in fake news for politically congruent images. The findings overall provide an understanding about how decisions are made about the veracity of politically congruent or politically incongruent fake news.