Combating the Spread of Misinformation on Social Media, from a Cognitive Engineering Perspective

In today’s information age, the sharing of misinformation is rampant. Social media has made it easy for misinformation to spread and affect people’s perceptions and understanding of facts. Mica R. Endsley, of SA Technologies Inc., explores this problem in a newly published Human Factors article, “Combating Information Attacks in the Age of the Internet: New Challenges for Cognitive Engineering.”

White it seems like an impossible task, Endsley argues a better framework for understanding information can help combat this issue. Information attacks are a significant threat, as they capitalize on human cognitive characteristics and weaknesses. But developing methods to overcome (and identify) how these attacks are launched and spread could significantly change how the entire world consumes information.

The statistics on the spread of misinformation are alarming. Endsley cites a study that found 70% of false news stories are more likely to be retweeted by people on Twitter than factual ones. Social media contributes most heavily to false news stories: fake news sites are accessed 42% of the time through social media, whereas legitimate news sources are only accessed 10% of the time.

In Endsley’s article, she looks at how dangerous and rapid this spread has been, and what those who study cognitive scientists can do to combat it. While it’s a unique challenge, it’s no doubt an important one. Human Factor’s editor Pat DeLucia said this article is timely and eye-opening, especially in today’s day and age.

“I am excited about this paper because I believe it will stimulate important new research in cognitive engineering,” DeLucia said.

To receive a copy of “Combating Information Attacks in the Age of the Internet: New Challenges for Cognitive Engineering” for media-reporting purposes, contact HFES Publication Editor Kate Jacobson at, or at 312-673-5462.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world’s largest scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,500 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. “Human Factors and Ergonomics: People-Friendly Design Through Science and Engineering.”