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Science explains how Donald Trump’s language can change our brains and make us susceptible to fake news

Hannah Yi
By Hannah Yi

Video Journalist

Over the course of his campaign to be president, Donald Trump’s words have become increasingly familiar to anyone who heard them. His phrases are catchy: crooked Hillary, lying Ted, lousy president. And it’s also not hard to recall how he feels about trade deals (“the worst”) or the press (“dishonest”).

But Trump’s phrases are more than merely catchy or memorable. It turns out that simple, paired phrases, especially negative ones, can actually change our brains. Over time they become unconscious beliefs, says David Poeppel, a neuroscientist who specializes in linguistics at New York University.

And that, says Poeppel, can make us more susceptible to fake news.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 64% of US adults say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the facts of current issues and event. Only 39% feel very confident they can actually recognize news that is false.

As the US heads into four years with a new president, it may be worth considering the impact of Trump’s language. Watch the video above to find out how our brains process the simple yet powerful words of Trump.

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