ERYN J. NEWMAN
Why some people turn to conspiracy theories to explain the coronavirus
By Claudia Farhart, Emma Lawson
May 13, 2020
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, social media has become increasingly flooded with conspiracy theories seeking to explain how it originated and why.
The theories have ranged from stories suggesting COVID-19 was accidentally released from a lab in Wuhan, China to insisting 5G technology is the true cause of the infection.
On the weekend, the discussion moved from the internet to the streets of Melbourne, where about 100 people gathered outside parliament to protest against 5G, vaccinations, Victoria's lockdown restrictions and what they called the "coronavirus conspiracy”.
So why are these theories spreading so quickly - and why are people so willing to believe them?
Why smart people believe coronavirus myths
By David Robson
April 06, 2020
From students to politicians, many smart people have fallen for dangerous lies spread about the new coronavirus. Why? And how can you protect yourself from misinformation?
It is a sad truth that any health crisis will spawn its own pandemic of misinformation.
Festiva Fake News: Reckon you've Seen Santa? This is why.
By Mary Ward
December 20, 2019
When Sarah Batternally was five, she remembers seeing Santa Claus.
"I was sleeping on the bottom bunk, with my brother above me," she recalls. "A man in a red suit appeared at the bedroom door and said, 'I've come to visit your family and when I leave you should wake up your brother and see what's in the lounge room.'"
Why Good Politics And Good Climate Science Don’t Mix
By Maggie Koerth-Baker
March 03, 2019
Imagine two people walking through a field. One of them tiptoes gingerly, zigging and zagging from one side to another. The other strides confidently straight ahead. Who looks more like they know what they’re doing? Now what if I told you the field is full of land mines? Confidence doesn’t equal competence. But our brains tend to assume it does. And that can create big problems when scientific evidence collides with political rhetoric.
Something As Simple As A Photo Can Trick You Into Believing Fake News
By Elfy Scott
November 21, 2018
A mounting body of scientific evidence is showing that people's assessments of whether or not something is true is really easily manipulated by cues as simple as photographs, or good-quality audio. A study published in March found that people were less likely to believe an academic researcher on the radio if the audio quality of the recording was poor or glitchy.
How Fake News Can Exploit Pictures to Make People Believe Lies
By Jordan Hayne
November 21, 2018
True or false? Giraffes are the only mammals that can't jump. According to a growing body of evidence, there are factors pushing you to rate that claim as true — and they have nothing to do zoology, biology, or general knowledge. It comes down to the fact the claim is presented alongside a generic photograph.
Would This Picture Make You Believe Fake News About Turtles?
By Sherryn Groch
November 21, 2018
First it was flesh-eating bananas wreaking havoc in the US. Then, a mummified fairy corpse was advertised for sale on eBay - along with the photos to "prove it". In the fake news era, seeing really is believing. Researchers at the Australian National University say people are more likely to believe a claim, no matter how outrageous, if it is paired with a photograph.
People Believe Fake News If It Comes With A Photo
By Antoinette Lattouf
November 21, 2018
People are more likely to believe something that isn't true if the claim is placed next to a loosely relevant photograph, new research shows. Dr Eryn Newman, from ANU's Research School of Psychology, has been exploring how people determine truth in a fake-news era. Newman found that people make the decision to trust information if it has pictures to illustrate the ideas -- but it doesn't even have to show your proof.
Putting Science and Policy on the Same Wavelength
August 16, 2018
It’s National Science Week in Australia, and on this week’s Policy Forum Pod, we hear from four scientists working across physics, psychology, engineering, and climatology: Susan Scott, Eryn Newman, Elanor Huntington and Mark Howden discuss how to break down the barriers standing between science and good public policy.
Megan Fox’s New TV Show Draws Archaeologists’s Ire
By Jamie Seidel
May 11, 2018
Megan Fox is a stunning supermodel and credible actress. Add her to a wealth of ancient fables, conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific technobabble. Then add funding from the Travel Channel. Sounds like a perfect fit? For ratings-hungry TV producers — yes. For those who know what they’re talking about — no.
Bad Audio Can Hurt a Scientist's Credibility
By Christopher Intagliata
April 27, 2018
In the era of fake news it's worth remembering: the medium is the message. For example: psychological studies have shown that text that's hard to read is more likely to be deemed untrue. Now a study suggests that when radio shows interview guests over bad phone lines, listeners might discount the credibility of a speaker…and her work.
How Sound Quality Affects Our Perception of Facts
By Jordan Hayne
April 11, 2018
You might think you're pretty good at discerning fact from fiction, but new research sheds light on how fickle people can be when forming judgements. In fact, a new study suggests when we're listening to information, the quality of the sound can be just as important as the message.
A Superpower for our Time: How to Handle the Truth
By Lynn Vavreck
June 19, 2017
“What one does when faced with the truth is more difficult than you would think.” — Wonder Woman, in the movie released last month.
This goes for all of us, not just superheroes. The nuances of how people react when faced with the truth have come into focus in today’s increasingly polarized political climate.
Democracy Requires Trust. But Trump is Making Us All Into Conspiracy Theorists
By Paul Musgrave
March 06, 2017
This past weekend, President Trump accused former president Barack Obama — without any evidence — of ordering Trump’s phones to be wiretapped during last year’s presidential campaign. It was only the most recent in a bewildering number of conspiracy theories the president and his circle have embraced over the past year.
Why Are People so Incredibly Gullible?
By David Robson
March 23, 2016
If you ever need proof of human gullibility, cast your mind back to the attack of the flesh-eating bananas. In January 2000, a series of chain emails began reporting that imported bananas were infecting people with “necrotizing fasciitis” – a rare disease in which the skin erupts into livid purple boils before disintegrating and peeling away from muscle and bone.
The Media Fuels Vaccination Myths by Trying to Correct Them
By Norbert Schwartz & Eryn Newman
March 18, 2015
In recent years, misinformation about vaccines has discouraged parents from having their children vaccinated, which puts their own children – as well as their neighbors’ children – at risk. In response, many doctors, scientists and journalists have worked together in an attempt to correct false beliefs about vaccination.
Truth vs. Truthiness: A UCI Researcher Studies the Difference
By Theresa Walker
November 04, 2014
Today, Election Day, feels like an appropriate time to ponder truthiness. Stephen Colbert, the satirist from Comedy Central, has built a career on it. So has Eryn Newman, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Irvine’s Department of Criminology, Law & Society who specializes in human memory and decision-making.
Psychology Explains Why People Are So Easily Duped
By Eryn Newman
June 29, 2014
True or false: “The Eiffel Tower is in France.” Most of us can quickly and accurately answer this question by relying on our general knowledge. But what if you were asked to consider the claim: “The beehive is a building in New Zealand.” Unless you have visited New Zealand or watched a documentary on the country, this is probably a difficult question.
All Things Considered: To Command Respect, Try Using Your Middle Initial
May 06, 2014
Robert Siegel talks to a pair of researchers who have studied names and how they are perceived by others. Are our evaluations of people's credibility swayed by how easily we can pronounce their names? Researchers in New Zealand have tried to find out.
What Your Name Says About How Believable You Are
By Matti Vuorre
April 28, 2014
Imagine that you are evaluating two equally suitable job candidates’ applications for a position in your successful yogurt company. Both make equally impressive claims about their potential future contributions, and you are left with a difficult decision: Should you rather hire Chen Meina, or Shobha Bhattacharya?
Is Your Name Hard to Pronounce? Then People Don't Trust You: Simple Names Make People Feel Familiar and Less 'Risky'
By Sarah Griffiths
February 28, 2014
Plenty of people are guilty of quickly judging people based on their appearance or accent. And now scientists have found that we trust strangers with easier-to pronounce names. Simpler and more easily recognizable names make people come across as more familiar and less risky to know, according to a new study.
September 13, 2012
Truthiness — it’s what satirist Stephen T. Colbert calls “the truth that you feel in your gut, regardless of what the facts support.” Now APS Member Eryn J. Newman, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, is taking a closer look at what really happens when we “think with our guts.”
Pictures Power 'Truthiness'
By Stacey Kirk
August 08, 2012
Looking at pretty pictures helped a great many of us learn to read, but New Zealand research is showing the power of an illustrated prompt may extend into adulthood. A study has now found that people are far more likely to accept something is true or legitimate if there is an accompanying picture beside it.