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Attributing False Information To Biased Beliefs Versus Dishonesty: Consequences For Punishment and Trust
A fruitful literature has examined the consequences of lying. However, lying is only one source of widespread misinformation. In part due to the rise of social media and political polarization, people increasingly exist in information bubbles, in which they seek out and are exposed to biased information. As a result, people form biased beliefs about what is true, and when they share these beliefs, they perpetuate misinformation. In the present work, we examine reactions to false information stemming from a communicator’s biased beliefs (“bias”) versus a communicator’s decision to lie (“dishonesty”). Two studies demonstrate that people are less likely to punish and more willing to believe future messages from biased versus dishonest communicators. By providing insight into how people react to false information from biased communicators, the current work broadens the field’s understanding of sources of societal conflict and provides insight on how to foster true beliefs across society.