Tobias Richter, Sascha Schroeder and Britta Wöhrmann

You don't have to believe everything you read: Background knowledge permits fast and efficient validation of information

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

In social cognition, knowledge-based validation of information is usually regarded as relying on strategic and resource-demanding processes. Research on language comprehension, in contrast, suggests that validation processes are involved in the construction of a referential representation of the communicated information. This view implies that individuals can use their knowledge to validate incoming information in a routine and efficient manner. Consistent with this idea, Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrated that individuals are able to reject false assertions efficiently when they have validity-relevant beliefs. Validation processes were carried out routinely even when individuals were put under additional cognitive load during comprehension. Experiment 3 demonstrated that the rejection of false information occurs automatically and interferes with affirmative responses in a nonsemantic task (epistemic Stroop effect). Experiment 4 also revealed complementary interference effects of true information with negative responses in a nonsemantic task. These results suggest the existence of fast and efficient validation processes that protect mental representations from being contaminated by false and inaccurate information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany. Grant: RI 1100/2-2. Other Details: Norbert Groeben. Recipients: Richter, Tobias