We get our news online, satisfy our thirst for knowledge online, and–for better or for worse–maintain some of our most important friendships and family relationships online. Yet the old caution, “Don’t believe everything you read,” becomes less palatable as we seek out relevant content and interaction with no appetite for sifting through garbage and untruths. We certainly hope that the people we care about are saying what they mean and meaning what they say.
This study suggests that psychological distance and mindset have an effect on the believability of what we read. The effect of mindset is not as great when the object is at a close psychological distance, but believability increases for objects at a far psychological distance when the reader has a more abstract mindset (focusing for example on “why” instead of “how”).
So… how about that reggae-dancing penguin in Antarctica?