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Not fake news: U of R psychologist wins major national award

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: March 18, 2020 12:00 p.m.

Dr. Gordon Pennycook was awarded the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour & Cognitive Science Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award.
Dr. Gordon Pennycook was awarded the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour & Cognitive Science Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award. Photo: U of R Photography

Dr. Gordon Pennycook’s research into why people believe and spread fake news, as well as how to use reason to fight the urge to do both, has been featured in media across the globe – including in The New York Times, PBS, The Guardian, Business Ghana, Wired, The Globe and Mail and CBC’s national radio science show, Quirks and Quarks.

A researcher in the early stages of his career, Pennycook is no slouch in the academic writing department either, having amassed 60 peer-reviewed journal articles, including many that have appeared in top journals, such as PNAS, Science, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Pennycook, an assistant professor of behavioural science in the Hill/Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina, has also recently edited a book, The New Reflectionism in Cognitive Psychology: Why Reason Matters, and has authored five book chapters in the past four years.

Recently, Pennycook co-authored a research paper that found that if social media platforms simply added accuracy reminders, such as asking people to judge the accuracy of a non-COVID-19-related headline, people would be far better at discerning truth and would share far fewer false articles– by more than double! – having an immediate positive impact on the sharing of misinformation about the COVID-19 outbreak.

For all of this work, and more, Pennycook has received the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science (CSBBCS) Vincent Di Lollo Early Career Award.

Pennycook says the honour means a lot to him.

“I've been going to the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science conference since I started grad school - 10 years ago this summer,” says Pennycook, who will receive the award at this summer’s conference. “I'm particularly proud that my work is being recognized by cognitive scientists despite being interdisciplinary.”

The CSBBCS is a not-for-profit organization that advances Canadian research in experimental psychology and behavioural neuroscience. The Early Career Award recognizes the exceptional quality and importance of the contributions of a new researcher to knowledge in brain, behaviour, and cognitive science in Canada. The recipient of this major national award must be within 10 years of receiving their PhD.

Article ammended March 25, 2020.

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