January 15, 2019  |  Updated February 13, 2019

‘Conformation Bias’: Political Tribalism as a Driver of Disinformation

By Péter Krekó

Those who study disinformation as a phenomenon often view persistent belief in propaganda and conspiracy theories as a kind of individual information-processing error: a consequence of personal cognitive failings and shortcomings. And, of course, cognitive factors such as superficiality in information processing, the illusory truth effect, and limited capacity to critically evaluate information are all important elements in the spread and acceptance of disinformation.

However, there is nothing new about the way the human brain works. Accordingly, these factors cannot fully explain why disinformation today often outperforms the truth, nor can they explain why intelligent and educated people so frequently embrace disinformation. In fact, the current sense of “post-truth” is based more in collective identity than in individual cognitive processes. In other words, disinformation and conspiracy theories are spreading more widely and quickly because they serve as important weapons in a tribal war.

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