Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 83 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jeanette Altarriba

Committee Members

Heather Sheridan, Bennett Schwartz


arousal, emotion, fake news, individual differences, judgement, misinformation, Fake news, Disinformation, Emotions, Truthfulness and falsehood, Arousal (Physiology)

Subject Categories



Today’s widespread access to the internet and social media platforms has vastly enhanced our ability to communicate stories and ideas. This includes the dissemination of both accurate and false information. Since 2016, the popularity of the term ‘fake news’ has skyrocketed, referring to the circulation of claims that were created with the intention to spread inaccurate information. Because of its inherent falseness yet widespread presence, fake news provides a rich outlet for exploring the variables that cause a claim to appear believable. Recent empirical explorations have well-established the presence of emotional information as a hindrance to overcoming susceptibility to misinformation by reducing reliance on analytical reasoning. However, the mechanisms by which emotions influence perceptions of information validity remain unexplored. The current series of experiments were designed to (1) distinguish between the dimensions of emotion (valence, arousal) on perceptions of claim validity, (2) explore the unidimensional conceptualization of emotion and reasoning within the context of accuracy judgments, and (3) establish the relationship between emotion and metacognitive judgments of confidence in perceptions of internet claims. Across three experiments, results indicated that emotional intensity (arousal) increases the believability of and confidence in the information read—a finding that had not been reported in prior studies of fake news. The results from this dissertation are vital for understanding how judgments are formed regarding the quality of encountered information, as well as attest to biases and flaws in thinking that humans commonly encounter.

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