Competing Cues: Older Adults Rely on Knowledge in the Face of Fluency

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Abstract

Consumers regularly encounter repeated false claims in political and marketing campaigns, but very little empirical work addresses their impact among older adults. Repeated statements feel easier to process, and thus more truthful, than new ones (i.e., illusory truth). When judging truth, older adults’ accumulated general knowledge may offset this perception of fluency. In two experiments, participants read statements that contradicted information stored in memory; a post-experimental knowledge check confirmed what individual participants knew. Unlike young adults, older adults exhibited illusory truth only when they lacked knowledge about claims. This interaction between knowledge and fluency extends dual-process theories of aging.

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