Fake news is everywhere. Some stories sound pretty believable, others are just darn right stupid. However, thanks to new research fresh out of Grand Valley State University, we now have a better insight into what and how this news impacts our beliefs, and more importantly, our memory of these beliefs.
Michael Wolfe, professor of cognitive psychology at Grand Valley State University, conducted a study to test how participants’ opinions changed over time, along with their memory of their past opinion.
In the study, participants were asked about a number of social issues, such as the impact of television violence or the effectiveness of spanking, and then gave their opinions on the topic. A couple of months later, participants were then asked to read an article on the topic and report their opinion once again, attempting to recall what they had previously answered.
The results indicated that participants who were given information which contradicted their original opinion generally shifted to a more central position on the issue, indicating their opinion had been altered. The study also found that participants usually believed that their older answer was similar to their newer answer, although usually, they were very different.
“People seem to be acting as if their current beliefs have always been their beliefs, and this is what led us to interpret the results as people being relatively unaware that their beliefs had in fact changed,” Wolfe said, according to Michigan Radio.
This attitude of constant zig-zagging between opinions with no recognition of change is a characteristic that Donald Trump has exhibited on a frequent basis. This might give us an insight into why he changes so frequently, and why he is adamant that he has never stated otherwise, despite video evidence.
Wolfe also related his research to the current state of the Republican party towards Vladimir Putin. This is due to the news that 32 percent of Republicans view Putin favorably compared with 12 percent before Trump’s presidential run.
“[Our research] would suggest that people who change their belief, in this case about Vladimir Putin, may be unaware that their beliefs have changed,” Wolfe said. “In that poll, they don’t ask people, ‘Did you support Vladimir Putin a few years ago?’ But if you asked a question like that, you may find that people would say, ‘Yes, I’ve always supported Vladimir Putin,’” stated Wolfe, Michigan Radio reports.
This makes more sense when we look at a wide range of topics and how each party has shifted on their opinion on topics such as Gun Control or Immigration. Ultimately, this research can help us become more conscious of how our attitudes can be influenced, and essentially how these beliefs are internalized or justify to give us a more consistent sense of self.