Book Review: Why We Fall for Fake News, by Rob Brotherton • Glam Adelaide

Book Review: Why We Fall for Fake News, by Rob Brotherton

MEDIA STUDIES: Rob Brotherton delves into the psychology of news, reviewing how the latest research can help navigate this supposedly post-truth world.

An in-depth analysis of the psychology of news consumers.

As today’s technological world allows for around-the-clock access to news from a variety of different sources and at times, offers real time and/or live reporting, one would consider themselves to be better informed. However, is what we read really the truth? Is it reality? Or do the algorithms of technology perpetuate myths and contract or intensify your pre-existing thoughts?

Author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories and founder Rob Brotherton’s latest book Why We Fall for Fake News, focuses on the psychology of the news, and delves into the many facets that lie behind how a person accesses and interprets all types of information and news events.

Brotherton’s prior book talked about conspiracy theories. The average person is unlikely to believe that they are a part of a manipulative news system, if they don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Yet, despite the limitless sources of information available at our fingertips, Brotherton suggests otherwise.

Some of the topics he covers are the psychology behind our interpretation of events, why we prefer unpleasant news to good news, how breaking news is no longer breaking news, and how the cognitive ability of our brain is limited when it comes to absorbing newsfeeds. Furthermore, he delves into the technological algorithms behind news feeds, how we become addicted, and how it can lead to polarisation.

Although the research in this book was exceptional and covered a variety of topics, it did not flow well, and it was hard to find the main point. It lacked a consistent thread and felt disjointed. Each chapter felt like it was its own short story rather than a flowing and cohesive strengthening of an answer to the title.It was also a fraction tedious and hard to read despite the information on offer. Perhaps the book itself was too much news.

Nevertheless, if you have recently watched the Social Commentary documentary and want to go beyond an analysis of social media conditioning, then this is the book to read. You will be learning from an academic psychologist whose PhD was in conspiracy theories, and whose previous book was shortlisted for the British Psychological Society Book Award.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: August 2020
RRP: $29.99 paperback, $32.99 hardcover

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