What is the illusory truth effect?

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The illusory truth effect, also known as the illusion of truth effect, validity effect, truth effect, or the reiteration effect, is a cognitive bias that leads people to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure. This phenomenon was first identified in a 1977 study at Villanova University and Temple University1. The illusory truth effect occurs because when people assess the truthfulness of information, they rely on whether the information aligns with their understanding or if it feels familiar. Repetition makes statements easier to process relative to new, unrepeated statements, leading people to believe that the repeated conclusion is more truthful. This effect has been linked to hindsight bias, where the recollection of confidence is skewed after the truth has been received1. The illusory truth effect can influence even those who initially knew the correct answer but were swayed to believe otherwise through the repetition of a falsehood. This is attributed to "processing fluency," which refers to the ease with which information is processed. The more fluent the processing, the more likely the information is to be perceived as true12. The illusory truth effect plays a significant role in various fields such as advertising, news media, and political propaganda. For instance, propagandists understand that repetition is key to getting people to accept a message, even if they don't believe it at first2. Research has shown that people are equally susceptible to the illusory truth effect, regardless of their particular way of thinking. However, by making a deliberate and concerted effort to be critical of the claims we encounter, it is possible to mitigate this effect2. The illusory truth effect is a robust phenomenon that occurs even when the repeated statements are highly implausible or when the repeated statements directly contradict participants' prior knowledge3. It's also worth noting that the largest increases in perceived truth come from hearing information a second time4. In conclusion, the illusory truth effect is a cognitive bias that can lead to the acceptance of false information as true through repeated exposure. It's a powerful tool used in various fields and can influence even those who initially know the correct information. It's important to be aware of this effect and make a conscious effort to critically evaluate the information we encounter.
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