Why Fake News Works

And we know it works, don’t we.


Highly emotionally provocative information stands a stronger chance of lingering in our minds and being incorporated into long-term memory banks.”

How do you decide what to talk about on your show?

Understanding why fake news — all the most outrageous stories and conspiracy theories you see posted on Facebook — works can help you do that.

No, I’m not suggesting you spew forth all the poisonous lies and whacko ideas used by those who create fake news, but the science behind its popularity can help you.

The first job of fake news is to catch our attention, and for that reason, novelty is key.”

This is the reason I hate liner-driven radio. No one is prolific enough to make these novel every day. Every PD knows listeners don’t even hear them any more.

Sensory neuroscience has shown that only unexpected information can filter through to higher stages of processing. The sensory cortex may have therefore evolved to adapt to, to predict, and to quiet down the expected regularities of our experiences, focusing on events that are unpredictable or surprising. Neural responses gradually reduce each time we’re exposed to the same information, as the brain learns that this stimulus has no reward associated with it.” (emphasis added)

The ability of fake news to grab our attention and then hijack our learning and memory circuitry goes a long way to explaining its success. But its strongest selling point is its ability to appeal to our emotions.”

Our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, long before we’re aware of them.”

So, what will your content include tomorrow?

Something surprising, completely unexpected?

Something a bit outrageous and highly emotional?

You know who has this down to a T…?

Howard Stern. Donald Trump. Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity and just about every anchor on FOX News.

They’re not saying what they say accidentally.

They understand how to move us, how to catch our attention and make us angry and upset and/or feel as if we belong to a movement and have a purpose higher than ourselves..

It’s made them rich and powerful.

But if you prefer to keep reading that liner about variety, or the one about playing the most music…be my guest.

It’s only your career.




*My thanks to Steve Allan of Research Director, Inc for the link to this article, which you can find HERE if you’re interested in the science part of it.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin