â€œThe brain is set up to give us easy answers â€¦ so if there's a hoax that appeals to people's emotions or intuition, it's going to trick people, because a lot of people just don't spend that much time thinking about the things that they see on social media,â€ says Gordon Pennycook, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Regina in Canada who studies decisionmaking. â€œSocial media is partly to blame, too, because it's set up to drive engagement, and that engagement often comes at the cost of shutting off people's brains a little bit.â€
Even in cases where users may have an inkling that the content they are choosing to amplify could be inaccurate, the desire to share often wins out, Pennycook says. (See: all of those hoax posts Tuesday with semi-self-aware captions like â€œSharing just in case!â€)
"Basically, what we find is that accuracy is not the thing that is foremost on people's minds [when deciding to share something,]" he explains. "The act of sharing something is often performative.â€
And there are many people (whether political, environmentally, profit, espionage) who will easily exploit this behaviour for their own reasons. Being able to push millions of people to visit a site, click to open a page which injects malicious code, is an easy thing to do and can result in financial or intelligence gains or influence behaviours. We've seen this exposed already around Cambridge Analytica where it can even interfere and influence big democracies.
#scams Why People Keep Falling for Viral Hoaxes
It's not because they're stupid.