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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

May 2016, Vol. 28, No. 5, Pages 739-746
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00923)
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On Known Unknowns: Fluency and the Neural Mechanisms of Illusory Truth
Article PDF (757.17 KB)
Abstract

The “illusory truth” effect refers to the phenomenon whereby repetition of a statement increases its likelihood of being judged true. This phenomenon has important implications for how we come to believe oft-repeated information that may be misleading or unknown. Behavioral evidence indicates that fluency, the subjective ease experienced while processing information, underlies this effect. This suggests that illusory truth should be mediated by brain regions previously linked to fluency, such as the perirhinal cortex (PRC). To investigate this possibility, we scanned participants with fMRI while they rated the truth of unknown statements, half of which were presented earlier (i.e., repeated). The only brain region that showed an interaction between repetition and ratings of perceived truth was PRC, where activity increased with truth ratings for repeated, but not for new, statements. This finding supports the hypothesis that illusory truth is mediated by a fluency mechanism and further strengthens the link between PRC and fluency.