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that someone could manipulate the caller ID.” Robert Feldman, a psychologist at the Univer- sity of Massachusetts, calls that the liar’s advan- tage. “People are not expecting lies, people are not searching for lies,” he says, “and a lot of the time, people want to hear what they are hearing.” We put up little resistance to the deceptions that please us and comfort us—be it false praise or the promise of impossibly high investment returns. When we are fed falsehoods by people who have wealth, power, and status, they appear to be even easier to swallow, as evidenced by the media’s credulous reporting of Lochte’s robbery claim, which unraveled shortly thereafter. Researchers have shown that we are especially prone to accepting lies that affirm our worldview. Memes that claim Obama was not born in the United States, deny climate change, accuse the U.S. government of masterminding the terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001, and spread other “alternative facts,” as a Trump adviser called his Inauguration crowd claims, have thrived on the Internet and social media because of this vulner- ability. Debunking them does not demolish their power, because people assess the evidence pre- sented to them through a framework of preexist- ing beliefs and prejudices, says George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. “If a fact comes in that doesn’t fit into your frame, you’ll either not notice it, or ignore it, or ridicule it, or be puzzled by it—or attack it if it’s threatening.” A recent study led by Briony Swire-Thompson, a doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology at the University of Western Australia, docu- ments the ineffectiveness of evidence-based information in refuting incorrect beliefs. In 2015 Swire-Thompson and her colleagues presented about 2,000 adult Americans with one of two statements: “Vaccines cause autism” or “Donald Trump said that vaccines cause autism.” (Trump has repeatedly suggested there’s a link, despite the lack of scientific evidence for it.) Not surprisingly, participants who were Trump supporters showed a decidedly stronger belief in the misinformation when it had Trump’s name attached to it. Afterward the participants were given a short explanation—citing a large- scale study—for why the vaccine-autism link was false, and they were asked to reevaluate their be- lief in it. The participants—across the political spectrum—now accepted that the statements at his first spectacle, in 1835, showman Phineas Taylor Barnum tout- ed Joice Heth as George Washington’s 161-year-old nursemaid. Crowds came gawking to see “the greatest natural & national curiosity in the world.” Bar- num profited from the public’s hunger for entertainment by planting embel- lishments and lies in newspapers. His fabrication about Heth blew up after her death, when an autopsy found her to be no more than 80 years old. Bar- num’s flair for fake news culminated when, in ill health, he arranged for the publication of his own obituary so he could read it before he died. urban legend: “Paul is dead.” Paul McCartney’s rumored death in a 1966 car crash sent Beatles fans hunting for clues in the band’s albums, includ- ing the 1969 release, Abbey Road. orson welles: “I can’t imagine an invasion from Mars would find ready acceptance.” On October 30, 1938, CBS Radio broadcast The War of the Worlds, a feigned account about aliens landing in New Jersey. Some listeners panicked, but Welles, who narrated it, expressed surprise that many had fallen for it. hoaxes for entertainment other famous fibs A gifted showman, P. T. Barnum exploited the public’s desire to be amazed.