Science of Us considers some psychological factors that can lead people to believe fake news.
According to a new paper the site reviews, from Advances in Political Psychology, two kinds of reasoning may be at play when people are presented with facts. One kind is motivated by a desire to obtain an accurate conclusion, independent of prior prejudices. Another kind is motivated by the desire to confirm the "direction" of prior conclusions about the relevant topic. Generally, when people do not have emotional associations with the subject of new facts, they are more likely to use accuracy-motivated reasoning. When the topic they are learning about is emotional, they are more likely to seek to reaffirm what they already know, sometimes at the expense of using empirical judgment.
As Science of Us author Jesse Singal points out, a perfect example of an emotional topic is often anything political. Therefore, people may be more likely to accept any political news they come across that affirms their prior beliefs.