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Misinformation Susceptibility Test

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Psychologists at the University of Cambridge have developed the first validated “misinformation susceptibility test” – the MIST – with early results showing that ‘very online’ Gen Z and millennials are most vulnerable to fake news.

In this study, users were asked to rate 20 news headlines written by AI as real or fake and answer a few optional questions about their background.

The test takes around 2 minutes to complete and measures four different variables.

  • The ability to distinguish real news from fake news (“veracity discernment”)
  • The ability to correctly identify real news.
  • The ability to correctly identify fake news.
  • Identifying a general tendency toward skepticism or gullibility on a scale from overly skeptical to overly gullible.

A YouGov survey of 1,516 U.S. adult citizens tested Americans’ susceptibility to ‘fake news’, and found that on average, they failed to correctly classify a third of headlines as either real or fake.

Younger Americans performed worse than older Americans on the misinformation test, scoring 12 out of 20 correctly, compared to 15 out of 20 for older adults (Americans who are 45 and older performed better than adults under 45 did).

Critical thinking is crucial to combat the pervasive effect of misinformation in the digital age, especially for the younger generations. Misinformation and coercive control hamper our everyday lives, enabling everything from political and religious radicalisation, to domestic abuse, fake news to gaslighting. We can address these challenges head on by teaching people to think critically.”
− Jim Atack, President of The Open Minds Foundation

Interestingly, people who spend less recreational time online each day perform better on the Misinformation Susceptibility Test, perhaps compounded by the fact that younger generations report getting their news from social media. The research by YouGov indicates that people who use social media as a news source do not perform as well on the misinformation test.

People who spend two hours or fewer hours of recreational time online each day are twice as likely to be in the highest-scoring category (30% vs. 15%) as people who spend 9 or more hours online per day.

Most of the Americans surveyed (53%) say they see what they think is false or misleading information online every day. 71% of adults believe they are being exposed to disinformation at least once per week.

75% of Americans are “very confident” (23%) or “somewhat confident” (52%) in their ability to tell real news from fake. Americans who are aged 45 and older tend to have more confidence (80%) in distinguishing real news compared to younger adults at 69%.

Take the test for yourself here.

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