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A world of mistrust: Fake news, mistrust mind-sets, and product evaluations

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. March 13, 2020

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Abstract

The current research examines how the influence of fake news on product evaluations is moderated by consumers’ political ideologies. Several experiments show that exposure to fake news undermines the evaluations that liberals (but not conservatives) form in response to offerings they subsequently encounter in contexts completely unrelated to the fake news. Mediational evidence is also provided, indicating that exposure to fake news makes liberal consumers mistrust the news source; this mistrust impairs the level of trust they place in firms offering a product/service, which in turn reduces their evaluations of that offering. Collectively, these findings document the ability of fake news to instigate a generalized mistrust in sources (i.e., a “mistrust mind-set”) among liberal consumers that influences their subsequent evaluations of products and services in the marketplace.

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