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10 Jul. 2023

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How our brains work: why do we believe fakes and succumb to collective panic, even if we know it's pointless?

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How our brains work: why do we believe fakes and succumb to collective panic, even if we know it's pointless?

Fake news is not just a lie, it is a real psychological manipulation that affects almost everyone. Find out how our brains work, why we tend to believe false information, and who is most affected by fake news.

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The fact that a person believes in fake news does not indicate either their level of education or their level of critical thinking. The trap that people fall into because of disinformation is much deeper and more insidious than it might seem at first glance. Moreover, a person's emotional state, level of fatigue, and the amount of internal resources directly affect how they perceive disinformation. 

How our brains and psyche work, why we tend to believe fakes, who is the most vulnerable group to disinformation, and what influences our perception - read on.


Why do we believe in fake news?


Earlier, we told you how many Ukrainians can tell the difference between fake news and true news and which social media platforms contain the most lies. But why are the numbers so disappointing?

Despite the fact that there is a certain category of people who are more likely to believe in fake news, almost everyone falls into the trap of lies. And unfortunately, a good education or a high level of critical thinking is no guarantee that a person's brain will not fall for fake news. After all, it's not the kind of person they are that has a much greater impact on the perception of specific information, but the state of mind they are in. 

Moreover, the resource, emotional, and cognitive states of the population are what the entire media industry is built on and what it successfully uses not for, but against people. Thus, all manipulations and fakes in particular are based on three components:


● A piece of truth

● emotional coloring that engages people and increases their vulnerability

● Regular repetition and mention to create information noise.


Who is more susceptible to fake news?


As we noted earlier, the psychological state plays a crucial role, and therefore the category of people most likely to believe in fakes is those who fall into a vulnerable state much faster and easier. In particular, these are:


● The elderly and children;

● People with a low level of critical thinking and education;

● Emotionally unstable people;

● People who tend to believe in authority figures. 


However, a more important role here is played by the fact that all Ukrainians are under constant stress and fear, which, unfortunately, play on the side of the enemy. And no matter how much we want to resist manipulation, the psyche and brain work separately from the conscious mind, because the state of every Ukrainian is currently vulnerable.


Why is the impact of negative news much greater than positive news?


This is how the human psyche works, because survival is its main goal. And negative news jeopardizes the very fact of a person's life. Thus, people pay more attention to negatively colored news, read it more carefully, and try to find and assess its direct impact on themselves. At the same time, positive news cannot cause the same mental agitation as a threat to survival.




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Why do people succumb to collective panic and spread fakes without even checking their veracity?


The reason lies in the negative coloring of fakes. That is, a person does not know whether they have read the truth or not, but subconscious fear has already appeared in their brain. And experiencing these emotions alone is difficult, and sometimes even impossible. Therefore, in order to get rid of excess "energy" and share the internal tension with someone, a person spreads the news that put them in this state.


Why do people believe what tarot readers, astrologers, and fortune tellers say?


For the psyche, uncertainty is also a threat to survival, so "pseudo-experts" who confidently talk about the future allow us to feel a little more confident and get rid of anxiety. In the short term, this can even be useful, because the way in which a person is able to calm their emotions and stop being nervous is not as important as the result. 

However, it is important not to fall into illusions and rely only on official sources of information. For example, if we are talking about an explosion at the ZNPP or another disaster, for which a person must be prepared in advance and have everything necessary to save life and health, it is a bad idea to believe an astrologer who says that nothing will happen and ignore the advice of the Ministry of Health.


We advise you not to blame yourself if you have been influenced by fake news and feel panic, anxiety, or restlessness. All Ukrainians are vulnerable to disinformation now, and unfortunately, they will remain so for some time after the war ends. It is much more important that you can calm your emotions and assess the situation as if from the outside, listen to the advice given by official sources of information and not harm your own life and health. 

If you find it difficult to cope with the influence of fakes, you understand that they are false, but you cannot stop being nervous, or you anxiously buy a lot of food and medicine in an attempt to create at least some confidence in the future, we advise you to contact qualified professionals who will help you overcome panic and fear. Here you will find 10 free resources for Ukrainians in need of psychological help.


We remind you!  Over the past year, more than a million Ukrainians have been forced to seek asylum in different countries. In particular, a large number of them are children who face problems related to studying in foreign schools. Read what factors prevent young people from gaining knowledge in our previous article.




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