Understanding and Reducing Online Misinformation Across 16 Countries on Six Continents

David Rand, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The spread of misinformation online is a global problem that requires global solutions. To that end, we conducted an experiment in 16 countries across 6 continents (N = 33,480) to investigate predictors of susceptibility to misinformation and interventions to combat misinformation. In every country, participants with a more analytic cognitive style and stronger accuracy-related motivations were better at discerning truth from falsehood; valuing democracy was also associated with greater truth discernment whereas political conservatism was negatively associated with truth discernment in most countries. Subtly prompting people to think about accuracy was broadly effective at improving the veracity of news that people were willing to share, as were minimal digital literacy tips. Finally, crowdsourced accuracy evaluation was able to differentiate true from false headlines with high accuracy in all countries. The consistent patterns we observe suggest that the psychological factors underlying the misinformation challenge are similar across the globe, and that similar solutions may be broadly effective.

Pre-print PDF: https://psyarxiv.com/a9frz/
Summary tweet thread: https://twitter.com/DG_Rand/status/1493946312353619981?s=20

David Rand, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Rand is the Erwin H. Schell Professor and Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. Bridging the fields of cognitive science, behavioral economics, and social psychology, David’s research combines behavioral experiments and online/field studies with mathematical/computational models to understand human decision-making. His work focuses on illuminating why people believe and share misinformation and "fake news"; understanding political psychology and polarization; and promoting human cooperation. He has published over 170 articles in peer-reviewed journals such Nature, Science, PNAS, the American Economic Review, Psychological Science, Management Science, New England Journal of Medicine, and the American Journal of Political Science, and his work has received widespread media attention. David regularly advises technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter in their efforts to combat misinformation, and has provided testimony about misinformation to the US and UK governments. He has also written for popular press outlets including the New York Times, Wired, and New Scientist. He was named to Wired magazine’s Smart List 2012 of "50 people who will change the world," chosen as a 2012 Pop!Tech Science Fellow, awarded the 2015 Arthur Greer Memorial Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Research, chosen as fact-checking researcher of the year in 2017 by the Poyner Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, awarded the 2020 FABBS Early Career Impact Award from the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and selected as a 2021 Best 40-Under-40 Business School Professor by Poets & Quants. Papers he has coauthored have been awarded Best Paper of the Year in Experimental Economics, Social Cognition, and Political Methodology.

@conference {281583,
author = {David Rand},
title = {Understanding and Reducing Online Misinformation Across 16 Countries on Six Continents},
year = {2022},
address = {Boston, MA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,

Presentation Video