Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

'It's not literally true, but you get the gist': How nuanced understandings of truth encourage people to condone and spread misinformation


Current Opinion in Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Langdon J A;Helgason B A;Qiu J;Effron D A


Publication Year



People have a more-nuanced view of misinformation than the binary distinction between “fake news” and “real news” implies. We distinguish between the truth of a statement’s verbatim details (i.e., the specific, literal information) and its gist (i.e., the general, overarching meaning), and suggest that people tolerate and intentionally spread misinformation in part because they believe its gist. That is, even when they recognize a claim as literally false, they may judge it as morally acceptable to spread because they believe it is true “in spirit.” Prior knowledge, partisanship, and imagination increase belief in the gist. We argue that partisan conflict about the morality of spreading misinformation hinges on disagreements not only about facts but also about gists.


Misinformation; Fake news; Morality; Fuzzy-trace theory; Gist; Verbatim; Partisan politics

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox