Overconfidence in news judgments is associated with false news susceptibility

Benjamin A. Lyons, Jacob M. Montgomery, Andrew M. Guess, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


We examine the role of overconfidence in news judgment using two large nationally representative survey samples. First, we show that three in four Americans overestimate their relative ability to distinguish between legitimate and false news headlines; respondents place themselves 22 percentiles higher than warranted on average. This overconfidence is, in turn, correlated with consequential differences in real-world beliefs and behavior. We show that overconfident individuals are more likely to visit untrustworthy websites in behavioral data; to fail to successfully distinguish between true and false claims about current events in survey questions; and to report greater willingness to like or share false content on social media, especially when it is politically congenial. In all, these results paint a worrying picture: The individuals who are least equipped to identify false news content are also the least aware of their own limitations and, therefore, more susceptible to believing it and spreading it further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019527118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 8 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Misinformation
  • Overconfidence
  • Social media


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