What makes someone fake?
Learn what fake news is
With so many sources of information online, it has become difficult to make sense of what content is based on fact, half-truths or lies. The use of digital platforms to share things we believe to be true when they may not be can have a powerful ripple effect, influencing others to see them as facts.
This can be especially dangerous for children and young people who can be persuaded to take on distorted views of the world that could cause them or others harm in the real world. This page explains what fake news is and how it can impact those who see it.
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What’s on the page
- What is misinformation and fake news?
- How do fake news and misinformation impact children and young people?
What is misinformation and fake news?
Advice on how to spot false news
Display video transcript
Social media is changing the way we get
our news fake news can be found embedded
in traditional news social media or fake
news sites and has no basis in fact but
is presented as being factually accurate
this has allowed hackers controls even
politicians to use the net to spread
disinformation online our children can
struggle to separate fact from fiction
thanks to the spread of fake news here
are some basic strategies to help them
develop critical digital literacy talk
to them children rely more on their
family than social media for their news
so talk to them about what is going on
read many people share stories who don’t
actually read encourage your kids to
read beyond the headline check teach
children quick and easy ways to check
the reliability of information like
considering the source doing a search to
double-check the author’s credibility
seeing if the information is available
on reputable sites and using credible
fact-checking websites to get more
get involved digital literacy is about
participation teach your kids to be
honest vigilant and creative digital
citizens fake news spreads
misinformation and anxiety among
schoolchildren but they are more
literate and resilient than you might
think if we give them the tools to tell
that foundation their digital literacy
will make the Internet a great place for
us all to find out what is going on in
News or stories on the internet that are not true. They may be in the form of disinformation or misinformation.
False information that’s created and shared to deliberately cause harm.
Generally used to refer to misleading information created or disseminated without a deliberate intent to cause harm.
Fake news stories use technology and social media to look like proper news sites. Organisations and political groups may target you with ads that look like the news. While hackers use bots, bits of software, to create multiple social media accounts and use those to spread disinformation. This can make a false story seem real, simply because it looks like it has been shared by so many people.
Fake social media posts and accounts help make misinformation viral. Sometimes this is then reported as fact by real journalists. When it becomes the news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred.
Fake news presents strong, often prejudiced opinions, as fact. It can also direct these opinions to those most likely to agree to reinforce them. This so-called “echo-chamber” effect is made worse by algorithms, clever bits of software, which encourage you to read material similar to what you are already sharing. Hackers often hack or manipulate these algorithms.
Examples of fake news
It is promoted by hackers, politicians, trolls, ad agencies and even governments, all of whom have a good understanding of how the internet works. This means it comes in many shapes and sizes making it harder to spot. Look out for:
Fake papers (Imposter news sites)
They look like traditional newspapers online but are not – they often showcase images and videos that have been manipulated.
These are posts, articles and videos that you may see in social feeds or websites that use dramatic headlines or claims for free items or results to get as many people to click on the article, i.e. ‘you won’t believe what…’.They may have eye catching images, an emotive or humorous tone to get people’s attention.
Ads that contain scams or false claims.
This refers to a person who uses their skills to gain unauthorised access to systems and networks in order to commit crimes such as identity theft or often holding systems hostage to collect ransom.
Sensationalist headlines designed to get you to spread the story without reading it.
People, often politicians, willing to use fake news stories to gain popular support.
Disinformation that often spreads because of its sensational topic. It could spread through fake news stories, through videos on social media and in different ways. Learn about hoaxes on TikTok.
They have no intention to cause harm but have the potential to fool people into thinking content is real (examples: Onion or Daily Mash site).
Although not an example of fake news, these are fake profiles, mainly on social media, that are created to spread fake news using automated technology.
Articles or news stories that use fake facts to distort a particular issue or an individual.
These typically are imposter emails, text, or websites that pretend to come from a reputable organisation in order to gain someone’s personal information. Learn more about phishing with advice from ESET.
This is when technology is used to replicate live facial movements of a person in a video and audio to make it seem real. Some of these videos have gone viral where high-profile people like President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have been impersonated in fake clips.
Sock puppet accounts
These are accounts that use fake online identities to mislead or manipulate public opinion.
How do fake news and misinformation impact children and young people?
Exposure to misinformation can reduce trust in the media more broadly, making it tougher to know what fact or fiction in the future is. When we start to believe that there is the possibility that anything can be fake, it’s easier to discount what is actually true. This presents a real concern about the impact of fake news on our children and young people.
According to the National Literacy Trust Fake News and Critical Literacy Report more than half of 12-15 year-olds go to social media as their regular source of news. And while only a third believe that social media stories are truthful, it is estimated that only 2% of school children have the basic critical literacy skills to tell the difference between real and fake news.
Half of the children asked, admitted being worried about fake news. Teachers surveyed on the matter noted a real increase in issues of anxiety, self-esteem, and a general skewing of world views. Generally, the trust children have in the news, social media interactions, and politicians being reliable sources is weakening.
Some fake stories can have a real impact on the lives of our children. The so-called “Anti-vaxxers” movement, the fake Momo scare, and the recent false news stories around the COVID-19 pandemic are all examples of different ways that fake news preys on our emotions and those of our children.
Children interviewed express a concern that when online they don’t know who to trust, what is real, and which forms of knowledge are true. Nearly all children are now online, but many of them are not emotionally equipped to deal with the challenges of a fake news online culture. We cannot stop our kids using the internet nor should we, it is an incredible resource. It is important then that we teach them some basic rules so they can feel confident in the facts they find online.
Share these videos with your child to help them gain a better understanding of fake news
BBC Bitesize | How does fake news spread?
Dark Personality Traits Make People Susceptible to Fake News
Summary: People with Dark Triad personality traits are likelier to believe fake news, especially when doing so promotes their selfish desires. Even when presented with scientific facts, those with dark triad personalities bend reality to their own liking. The more pronounced traits associated with self-interest were, the more those with dark triad personalities doubted there was a difference between actual facts and mere opinions.
Source: University of Würzburg
“Some people believe Fake News even when the scientific facts clearly contradict them,” says psychologist Jan Philipp Rudloff. “We wanted to know why this is the case and investigate the role played by our ideas about the nature of knowledge and facts.”
Rudloff, who is doing his PhD at the department of communication psychologist Professor Markus Appel, conducted an extensive experiment on this matter. Together with Appel he confronted more than 600 individuals from the USA with various short headlines – such as ” Trump’s first 3 years created 1.5 million fewer jobs than Obama’s last 3.” Participants were asked to assess the accuracy of these statements.
Epistemic beliefs were assessed with a questionnaire
Afterwards, they filled out a comprehensive questionnaire. Among other things, the participants were asked to indicate how much they trust their gut feeling when evaluating the accuraty of information, how important solid evidence is to them and how much they assume that politics, science and the media “fabricate” facts according to their interests.
“We summarise these aspects as ‘epistemic beliefs’,” Rudloff explains – epistéme comes from the Greek and means “cognition” or “knowledge”.
In addition, the questionnaire assessed how important it was for the participants to assert their own interests (even at the expense of their fellow human beings). This characteristic is also called the “dark factor of personality”. It is considered the core of various dark personality traits such as narcissism, psychopathy or Machiavellianism.
“Everyone is selfish to a certain degree,” Rudloff explains. “However, it is problematic when people focus on their own well-being so strongly that the interests of their fellow human beings no longer play any role.”
People with dark personality traits bend reality according to their own benefit
The study showed that the less the participants believed in the existence of facts, the more difficult it was for them to distinguish true statements from false ones. In addition, there was a second finding: the stronger the “dark factor of personality” of the participants was, i.e. the more pronounced their self-interest at the expense of others, the more they doubted that there was a difference between scientific findings and mere opinions.
“You could call their beliefs post-factual; they only believe what feels true to them,” Jan Philipp Rudloff emphasizes. Accordingly, they find it difficult to distinguish true statements from false ones, so they particularly often believe fake news to be true.
“People with dark personality traits bend reality to their own liking. For example: I don’t wear a mask because the coronavirus was just invented by the media anyways,” Rudloff explains. “Bending the facts based on selfish motives works especially well when people are convinced that there are no independent scientific facts anyways.”
In another study published in spring 2022, Rudloff and Appel, together with Dr. Fabian Hutmacher from the JMU department of Psychology of Communication and New Media, were already able to show that people with dark personality traits were more likely to endorse to COVID-19 conspiracy theories during the pandemic.
Rudloff emphasizes, however, that it is by no means only this group that is susceptible to conspiracy theories and fake news. “Epistemic beliefs are the decisive factor,” he says. “People who don’t believe in the power of sound evidence and arguments won’t be swayed by even the most impressive fact-checking – regardless of their other personality traits.”
Epistemic beliefs develop at a young age
In psychology, epistemic beliefs are thought to develop and solidify during childhood and adolescence. For young children, there is only black or white on many issues: an idea is good or bad, a proposition true or false. Later they learn to differentiate: Whether someone likes Beethoven or is into pop songs is a matter of taste. During this time, they tend to see different opinions as equal – even those on matters such as climate change being caused by humans.
“In the best case, at some point we learn to evaluate different positions,” says Rudloff. “For example: yes, there are different opinions, but some more by backed by evidence than others.” But not everyone seems to take this step. In situations like climate change or COVID-19, where a rational assessment of arguments is crucial, this deficit can have serious consequences.
About this dark triad and psychology research news
Author: Esther Knemeyer Pereira
Source: University of Wuerzburg
Contact: Esther Knemeyer Pereira – University of Wuerzburg
Image: The image is credited to Jan Philipp Rudloff / University of Wuerzburg
Original Research: Closed access.
“When Truthiness Trumps Truth. Epistemic Beliefs Predict the Accurate Discernment of Fake News” by Jan Philipp Rudloff et al. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
When Truthiness Trumps Truth. Epistemic Beliefs Predict the Accurate Discernment of Fake News
The widespread distribution of mis- and disinformation highlights the need to understand why individuals fall for fake news. Surprisingly, individuals’ very understanding of knowledge and how it is created (epistemic beliefs) has received little attention in this context.
We present a model focusing on the role of post-truth epistemic beliefs, their relationship to the Dark Factor of Personality (D), and their mutual association with fake news discernment.
Based on a repeated measures experiment (N = 668), we show that individuals who endorse post-truth epistemic beliefs distinguish less between fake news and accurate news (fake news discernment). Further, D was linked to reduced fake news discernment, which is explained by a positive relationship with post-truth epistemic beliefs.
Results remained virtually identical when ideology congruent and ideology incongruent news were considered separately. In conclusion, when addressing the global threat of fake news, epistemic beliefs need to be considered.
Fake it till you make it: How to use what you don’t know to grow
During tough times — or when we’re under stress — we all lean on mantras or aphorisms to keep ourselves going. One of my favorites is “Everything happens for a reason.” These statements are meant to remind us of our values, so we can connect to a little positive encouragement when we need it. When we’re feeling less than confident, we might tell ourselves to just “fake it until we make it.”
While it’s sometimes helpful to borrow a little confidence and a positive outlook, the idea of faking it can get us into trouble. Many people are already stretched thin, dealing with the stress of current events and the pressure of moving forward with “business as usual.” Faking it might make everything look fine — for a little while — but it can add even more pressure to an already full plate.
In this article, we look at the idea of «fake it till you make it» through three different lenses and learn how to rewrite this mantra for ourselves.
What does it mean to «fake it ’till you make it»?
There are a few different takes on fake it till you make it. Viewed through a critical lens, you could say that they’re based on a sort of overlap between emotion, perception, and competence. In general, the idea is to “fake” one of these three things until you gain the benefits of actually having it.
What does it mean to ‘fake it till you make it’?
‘Fake it till you make it’ means to consciously cultivate an attitude, feeling, or perception of competence that you don’t currently have by pretending you do until it becomes true.
Three different ways to fake it — and which ones are no good for you
1. Act as if
The first version of this is to act as if you have what you want — or are who you want to be. This can be a very helpful and healthy version of faking it. While there’s no scientific backing for the Law of Attraction movement, there is evidence that the practice of visualizing how you aspire to be is helpful. People who practice manifestation methods , like positive affirmations and vision boards , see «acting as if» as a key part of bringing their behavior into alignment with their ideal self .
These kinds of visualization techniques are important to success in a number of different fields. It can help you build confidence, identify gaps in your skill sets, and give you the courage to take risks that align with bigger opportunities.
The drawbacks of «acting as if»
When I started my first job, I had a friend who always lied about what he owned. He worked at a fast-food restaurant but told anyone who would listen about his wealthy grandparents. He said that they were leaving him a large amount of money and he needed to work to “prove himself.” Whenever we got on the train, he’d remind us that his brand-new Corvette was “in the shop,” or “too nice to drive in the city.”
He eventually did buy himself a Corvette, but not before earning himself a reputation as a compulsive liar. While it’s great to practice behaviors and attitudes that align with the person you want to be, you shouldn’t compromise your values to do it.
Instead of telling everyone he owned a car that he didn’t have, he could have taken other actions to prepare for his future success. There’s a line between putting yourself in an aspirational mindset and lying. Visualization should focus on the future and the way you need to behave to achieve your goals.
For example, he could have saved up money for it, taken a defensive driving class, or worked on improving his credit score. You shouldn’t mortgage your current well-being to pay for your future goals.
2. Nod and smile
Everyone has had the experience of sitting through a conversation or meeting where you’re not 100% sure what’s going on. I know there have been times where I’ve been afraid to even ask a question because I didn’t want to reveal how little I knew (or that I might have missed something).
But as a former teacher, I can say that if you have the question, there’s a good chance someone else does too. People (even the ones at the front of the room) are usually grateful when you’ve given them a chance to clarify and gauge understanding.
Nodding and smiling is sometimes helpful. It can keep conversations moving along (after all, do you really need to know everything?) and help conserve emotional energy. When others are nodding along, mirroring their behaviors can help improve the sense of positive connection and belonging in the group.
The drawbacks of «nod and smile»
Pretending you know when you don’t can make it harder to come clean about your shortcomings in the future. If you fake it convincingly enough, you may put yourself in a position where you’re afraid to ask for help or risk blowing your cover. This can lead to impostor syndrome — the feeling of being ‘found out’ or like you don’t deserve to be where you are.
It’s through vulnerability and self-awareness that we grow and learn to leave our comfort zones. We shouldn’t be afraid of being seen as less than perfect. Faking it until we make it often contributes to perfectionism and anxiety.
3. Pretend everything’s fine
There are days when we just don’t feel our best. We might be under the weather, distracted by other things, or dealing with grief. Sometimes, when we need to push forward anyway, we act as if everything’s fine. Our parents and teachers might have called this “putting on a brave face.”
There’s evidence behind this version of faking it. Researchers have learned that even a fake smile can make us feel happier and more positive . Our body language and actions certainly impact our mood and vice versa. We’ve certainly all had days that we didn’t feel like doing something, and we ended up being glad that we went (the gym is a notable example).
The drawbacks of «everything is fine»
Much like “smile and nod,” pretending that everything is fine creates a lot of emotional pressure. You might be putting so much energy into keeping up an emotional facade that you don’t have much left over for anything else.
Pretending all is well delays the process of dealing with your feelings. This has the unfortunate consequence of often making them seem bigger than they really are. The saying goes “A burden shared is a burden halved.” But you can’t share the burden when you’re invested in making everything look neat and smooth.
This attitude of putting a positive spin on everything, even when you’re struggling, is called toxic positivity. Toxic positivity can damage your self-esteem, mental health, and connection with others.
How fake it till you make it feeds imposter syndrome
Imposters are people who pretend that they are someone that they’re not, or that they belong somewhere that they don’t. When imposter syndrome kicks in, you feel like you’re faking your success and your qualifications even if you’re not.
While the phrase fake it till you make it can be helpful when you need to boost your confidence, it can also be self-defeating. In essence, you’re continually affirming that you’re a “fake.” This can be especially damaging when you’re already struggling with feelings of unworthiness or doubt that you deserve to be where you are.
When you get caught up in impostor syndrome, it can prevent you from taking a critical look at the skills that you do need to develop. You may begin to invest lots of energy in avoiding others so you won’t be found out.
When that happens, faking it becomes a permanent part of your facade. This sense that the “real you,” your authentic self , isn’t good enough for where you are is fertile ground for impostor syndrome.
When not to fake it ’til you make it
While science says that faking a smile can help you feel better, there are times when faking can get you into hot water. Here are three times you should be completely honest in your work life:
Faking a competency isn’t about building confidence. Most people will interpret that as flat-out lying. If you don’t have the skills to do a role, pretending that you’re good at it doesn’t help anybody.
Unfortunately, we often feel under pressure to look like we know everything, especially when we deal with impostor syndrome. For example, a new manager that feels self-conscious about their success might try to overcompensate by acting like a know-it-all.
Even if you were newly promoted into a role, it’s okay to not know everything. Just be honest that you don’t know everything and where you need support. Nobody expects you to be perfect — but they can’t help you if you pretend to have it all covered.
The real secret? They probably already realize you don’t have it all in hand. Your apparent lack of self-awareness might be even more frustrating than your questions would be.
Don’t pretend you know what somebody is expecting from you when you don’t. You may be afraid to reveal that you didn’t understand what someone was asking for, or that you weren’t clear on what the deliverables were in the first place.
I’ve certainly said yes to things that I’ve had to furtively ask follow-up questions about. Even though I was afraid that by asking a question I’d reveal my own ignorance or confusion, I found it was better to speak up. Better to ask questions to clarify than drop the ball because you pretended you understood when you didn’t.
When someone is offering help, whether it’s mentorship, coaching, or any other kind of assistance, don’t fake it. Mentorship and coaching relationships are built on authenticity and vulnerability. Moreover, those relationships are for your benefit. They can’t help you if they don’t know you. That means dropping the facade.
Even if you don’t need “help,” you need — and deserve — to have a safe space where you can tell someone that you don’t feel confident or safe. That’s just one reason why psychological safety is so important to building teams . Someone needs to be there to guide you, support you, and celebrate with you when you finally do “make it.”
How to fake it ’til you make it — the right way
Don’t sell yourself short by calling yourself a fake. You’re not faking it — you’re learning and reaching a new level. Cultivating a beginner’s mindset is part of the growth process.
Here are some ways to embrace uncertainty until you “make it”:
1. You’re not faking it, you’re practicing it
There’s a difference between faking it and practicing. Anything we’re working to master will feel awkward at first. Reframe these changes as “working to embody the behaviors for the person that you want to become.” They may not be habitual, but that doesn’t mean that they’re fake.
Continuing to practice until the new habits become more natural is one way of “making it.”
2. You’re not faking it, you’re winging it
Learning psychologist Lev Vygotsky out lined the idea of scaffolding . He explained that as we develop new skills, we learn most successfully when those skills are just a little beyond what we know. He referred to this area as the zone of proximal development.
In order to learn the skills in that zone, we often need the help of a skilled other. Sometimes, we’ll jump into experiences that we’re not entirely ready for. That’s not faking. That’s using the skills you have to try something outside of your comfort zone. It’s scaffolding, and it’s an important part of growth.
If you are learning something new, you’re being authentic about where you are and where you still need to develop. You’re admitting that you don’t know it all — which takes confidence.
3. You’re not faking it, you’re asking for help
You don’t have to do it all yourself, and you definitely don’t have to do it all perfectly. Be clear about your boundaries and what you’re struggling with. Ask for help, decide what you can take off your plate, and delegate things to others.
Ask for guidance. It may seem counterintuitive, but research says people that ask for help with a challenging task are perceived as more competent and effective than people who don’t.
You don’t have to tell everybody you know that you’re not feeling confident. But you’d be surprised what happens when you open up to people. When you’re authentic about what you’re dealing with, people will respect you more for the areas that you’re struggling with. Rather than just “acting like” a confident person, these mastery experiences will help you build self-confidence.
Moreover, having strengths and weaknesses — working to learn — doesn’t make you weak or incompetent. Mathematical geniuses often wrestle with complex equations for months on end. It’s not about solving everything immediately, it’s about what you take away from trying to solve it.
Don’t let the idea of “faking it ’til you make it” keep you from opportunities to think about things critically because you don’t want to pretend that you know. A coach can help you build the mental fitness and self-awareness to learn and grow. You want to be able to have the self-awareness to identify where you need to grow. In the end, it’s trust — and trusting yourself and your support systems around you to help unlock your human potential .