Exposing the public to fake news may lead to the creation of false memories, according to a new study published in Psychological Science.
Researchers in the study asked participants to recall real-life events based upon provided news reports. Even though some of the news reports provided were fake, almost half of respondents reported remembering a fake event in real life — and “many” respondents recalled “rich details” about events that never actually happened, according to Science Daily.
The study, which focused on fake news related to abortion, was conducted shortly before the 2018 Irish referendum that overturned the ban on abortion. Gillian Murphy, the lead author and a researcher at the University College Cork, says that the study is significant because it analyzes the way misinformation influences the way people understand actual events, reports the news outlet.
“In highly emotional partisan political contests, such as the 2020 U.S. presidential election, voters may ‘remember’ entirely fabricated news stories,” Murphy told Science Daily.
Co-author Elizabeth Loftus, a researcher at the University of California–Irvine, believes that understanding how fake news affects the mind will become more important as technology improves, according to Science Daily. “With the growing ability to make news incredibly convincing, how are we going to help people avoid being misled?” asked Loftus, reports the outlet.
Artificial intelligence experts warn that new technology can allow people to create convincing, fake videos that can be used to mislead voters on political issues and events, according to the Washington Post.
“Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing ‘deepfake’ videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they didn’t really do,” reports the news agency.
A researcher at Stanford University, Ohad Fried, is leading a team to create a technology that can make it appear as if a person’s mouth is moving to say something else, according to the Post. Although he says this technology can be a helpful tool for creating movies, he also cautions it can be used to create false representations of real-life events and people.
Although many of these technologies are still new or in early phases of development, some are already easily accessible to the public. For example, the website “Not Jordan Peterson,” created using artificial intelligence and audio data, allows users to write out sentences to create fake but convincing audio that sounds like the popular psychology professor.