The proliferation of fake news on social media is now a matter of considerable public and governmental concern. In 2016, the UK EU referendum and the US Presidential election were both marked by social media misinformation campaigns, which have subsequently reduced trust in democratic processes. More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the acceptance of fake news has been shown to pose a threat to public health. Research on how to combat the false acceptance of fake news is still in its infancy. However, recent studies have started to focus on the psychological factors which might make some individuals less likely to fall for fake news. Here, we adopt that approach to assess whether individuals who show high levels of ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ) are less likely to fall for fake news items. That is, are individuals who are better able to disregard the emotionally charged content of such items, better equipped to assess the veracity of the information. Using a sample of UK participants, an established measure of EQ and a novel fake news detection task, we report a significant positive relationship between individual differences in emotional intelligence and fake news detection ability. We also report a similar effect for higher levels of educational attainment, and we report some exploratory qualitative fake news judgement data. Our findings are discussed in terms of their applicability to practical short term (i.e. current Facebook user data) and medium term (i.e. emotional intelligence training) interventions which could enhance fake news detection.


© 2021 Preston et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Preston, S., Anderson, A., Robertson, D., Shephard, M. & Huhe, N. 2021, 'Detecting fake news on Facebook : the role of emotional intelligence', PLoS ONE, 16(3), article no: e0246757. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246757

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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