Adolescents' vulnerability to disinformation: Its measurement and relationship to critical thinking and moral disengagement

La vulnerabilidad de los adolescentes frente a la desinformación: su medición y su relación con el pensamiento crítico y la desconexión moral

Paula Herrero-Diz, Milagrosa Sánchez-Martín, Pilar Aguilar, & José Antonio Muñiz-Velázquez


Young adolescents are more vulnerable to disinformation owing to the time that they spend online and their content consumption habits. The consequences of this phenome­non can be serious, both for the individual and at a social and political level. To alleviate this situation, different agencies recommend healthy practices regarding consumption and exchange of information; from checklists to self-learning exercises for the development of critical thinking. This research proposes a tool for the identification of behaviours among adolescents when giving credibility to infor­mation or content and the motives that lead them to share it, contributing at times to the spread of misleading information. After an ex­haustive process of design, piloting, and psy­chometric validation using an English-speak­ing sample (N = 417), a reliable instrument was obtained. We also measured its correlation with critical thinking and moral disengage­ment. The results lead us to conclude that this is a new tool with which to observe the information consumption behaviours of young people and thus measure their vulnerability to disinformation. Similarly, we have confirmed how greater critical thinking is positively re­lated to more responsible consumption when giving credibility to content or news, and how moral disengagement is linked to the fact of sharing such items with greater ease.

Please, cite this article as follows: Herrero-Diz, P., Sánchez-Martín, M., Aguilar, P., & Muñiz-Velázquez, J. A. (2023). La vulnerabilidad de los adolescentes frente a la desinformación: su medición y su relación con el pensamiento crítico y la desconexión moral | Adolescents' vulnerability to disinformation: Its measurement and relationship to critical thinking and moral disengagement. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 81 (285), 317-335.

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Paula Herrero-Diz holds a PhD in Communication from the Universidad de Sevilla and a Master’s degree in Re­search Methods in Economic and Business Sciences from the Universidad de Cór­doba. She works as an Assitant Profes­sor and researcher in the Department of Communication and Education at Univer­sidad Loyola Andalucía, where she teach­es courses in the field of journalism. Her main research interests are young people as creators of digital content and innova­tion in media.

Milagrosa Sánchez-Martín is a teacher and researcher in the Department of Psychology and Dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Education at Universi­dad Loyola Andalucía. She holds a PhD in Psychology with a European mention, spe­cializing in the field of Methodology of Be­havioural Sciences. She was awarded the Young Researchers Prize by AEMCCO and is a founding member of the spin-off com­pany Metodik. She has led several compet­itive national research projects and par­ticipated in others at European, national, and regional levels, as well as in research contracts with companies such as Pearson Education, Coca Cola’s Institute of Happi­ness, and the Spanish Red Cross.

Pilar Aguilar is a teacher and re­searcher at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Universidad Loyola Andalucía. She has participated in sever­al research projects funded by competitive public calls from the Ministry of Science in the I+D Excellence program and has been Co-IP of a project granted by the Anda­lusian Agency for International Coopera­tion for Development. In addition, she has collaborated on European research pro­jects and has carried out scientific stays in the United States, United Kingdom, and Portugal. She has published 11 JCR arti­cles. Since 2015, she has also taught class­es and held management positions in the Department of Psychology at Universidad Loyola Andalucía.

José Antonio Muñiz-Velázquez is a Teacher, Researcher, and Director of the Department of Communication and Educa­tion at Universidad Loyola Andalucía. He is also responsible for the Positive Communi­cation and Digital Culture research group at the same university. He holds a degree in Information Sciences and Psychology and a PhD in Communication. His research focuses on the relationship between differ­ent facets of communication, happiness, and human flourishing. He has numerous publications in top scientific journals and publishers on this topic. He has been a vis­iting lecturer at universities such as Loyola Chicago University, Università di Siena, Università di Bologna, and Emerson Col­lege (Boston), among others.

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