In this study, an online intervention was conducted to encourage young adults to help their family members and develop prosocial values as a way to resist fake news. This randomized controlled trial is one of the first psychological interventions against fake news in Eastern Europe, where state-sponsored misinformation is common in mainstream media due to the weak free press. During the intervention, participants were given an expert role and asked to write a letter to their less digitally competent relatives, explaining six strategies to recognize fake news. Compared to the active control group, the intervention had an immediate effect (d = 0.32), which persisted four weeks later (d = 0.22), on the participants' ability to recognize fake news. It also reduced their receptivity to bullshit both immediately after the intervention and in the long run. The study shows that using social bonds can be a powerful motivator for behavior change among Eastern European participants. This prosocial approach, grounded in human psychology, can be a useful addition to existing interventions in the fight against misinformation.
This research was financed in the framework of the DEMOS project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under grant agreement No 822590. Consortium leader: Zsolt Boda.