Effects of Associative Inference on Individuals’ Susceptibility to Misinformation

Aiping Xiong, Sian Lee, Haeseung Seo, Dongwon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Associative inference is an adaptive process of memory that allows people to recombine associated information and make novel inferences. We report two online human-subject experiments investigating an associative inference version in which participants viewed overlapping real-news pairs (AB&BC) that could later be linked to support inferences of misinformation (AC). In each experiment, we examined participants’ recognition and perceived accuracy of snippets of news articles presented as tweets across two phases. At Phase 1, only real-news tweets were presented, which were associated with political news of Phase 2 at three levels: real, fake, and fake with inference. In Experiment 2, participants’ cognitive abilitywas also assessed. Participants recognized more but gave lower accuracy ratings for the fake news with inference than the fake news in both experiments. The effect of associative inference wasmore evident in the perceived accuracy ratings for participants of higher cognitive ability than those of lower cognitive ability.We conclude that associative inference can make people become susceptible to misinformation. We also discuss the results in terms of why associative inference made people susceptible to misinformation in the relatively automatic familiarity judgment (i.e., recognition) but not the relatively controlled and effortful semantic judgment (i.e.,

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 17 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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