An Exploration of the Correlation Between Traits Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the Accuracy of Detecting Fake News Headlines

Authors: Taylor, J. and Matthews, S.

Conference: BPS Cyberpsychology section

Dates: 6-7 July 2021


Introduction Individuals with traits associated with ASD understand information in different ways, compared with those without these traits, and tend to rely on logical reasoning when making decisions. Susceptibility to fake news has been explained by lack of reasoning, therefore individuals with ASD traits may be less susceptible to fake news. Fake news is often created to include highly affective content often using images, but individuals with ASD pay less attention to emotional context when making decisions, therefore individuals high in autistic traits may be less affected by the emotive content in fake news.

Method A small-scale exploratory study was conducted with a non-clinical volunteer sample of 35 university students. After completing the Autistic Spectrum Quotient, participants were presented with 20 fake and real news headlines with emotive or non-emotive images and asked to decide whether each article was real or fake.

Results Individuals with low and high ASQ scores were compared, but there were no significant differences regarding levels of accuracy in detecting fake news. Also, whether an article was emotive or not made no significant difference upon participant’s correct identification of fake news. However, there were two significant interactions: (i) when headlines were emotive, real articles were more likely to be correctly identified, and (ii) for individuals low in autistic traits, emotive headlines were more likely to be identified correctly than non-emotive headlines.

Conclusion The results contribute to our understanding of the way people make judgements about fake news, however a larger study is needed using clinical samples.

Source: Manual