A recently released CNA study examines how, in this disorienting information environment, normal information-processing and social psychological mechanisms can be exploited by disinformation campaigns. The report, The Psychology of (Dis)Information: A Primer on Key Psychological Mechanisms , identifies four key psychological mechanisms that make people vulnerable to persuasion.
The four key psychological principles are:
- initial information processing;
- cognitive dissonance;
- the influence of groups, beliefs, and novelty; and
- the role of emotions and arousal.
The report describes each psychological principle, explains how the principle contributes to the absorption and spread of disinformation, and details ways to mitigate the effect of the principle on the spread of disinformation. The report offers two promising categories of techniques to counter disinformation by empowering citizens to reject the disinformation they will encounter. One is to provide preventive inoculation, such as warning people about the effects of disinformation and how to spot it. The other is to encourage deeper, analytical thinking. The report’s authors believe these techniques can be included in training and awareness campaigns in a low-cost fashion and without requiring cooperation from social media platforms. The full report is available here and a companion report providing case studies and implications is available here.