This website provides an overview of a 5-year NSF-funded research project examining the flow of rumors and misperceptions online. It includes information about the project, the research team, publications, and will eventually also include relevant datasets. There is also a Twitter feed associated with the project, which aims to track relevant news and research (#FalseBeliefNews).
Congratulations to my student Rachel Neo on the (electronic) publication of her sole-authored article, “Favoritism or Animosity? Examining How SNS Network Homogeneity Influences Vote Choice via Affective Mechanisms” in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research. As the title suggests, the paper examines how online social network composition shapes citizens’ feelings toward political candidates, and how this impacts vote choice. The work uses data collected as part of the NSF award funding this project. The article is available for download here:
My collaboration with Erik Nisbet and Kathryn Cooper has been published. In the article we tackle the common misperception that conservatives are uniquely resistant to scientifically accurate information. We use an online experiment to demonstrate that both liberals and conservatives tend to be skeptical of science claims that don’t sit well with their politics, and that reading such claims reduces their trust in the scientific community more generally.
Rachel Neo’s paper, “Examining the Influence of SNS Network Homogeneity on Actual Voting Behavior Via Affective Responses toward In and Out-Group Presidential Candidates As Intervening Variables” was named one of four Top Student Papers in the Political Communication Division of the National Communication Association. Although not related to misperceptions, the paper relied on data collected by this project.
The APSA Political Communication section has awarded Brian Weeks’ paper “Feeling is Believing? The Influence of Emotions on Citizens’ False Political Beliefs” the Timothy Cook Best Graduate Student Paper Award for the 2013 APSA. Brian, who recently defended his PhD, has been a long-time member of this research team, and his paper is part of a larger research program examining the role of discrete emotions on the processing of political misperceptions.
Emotions shape people’s beliefs. People who are angry are more likely to be biased, which can make them more susceptible to misperceptions. A recently published study coming out of this project suggests that partisan media are contributing to rising levels of hostility between citizen who disagree politically. The study used survey data collected in the US and Israel to show that more frequent exposure to politically slanted news sites lead to stronger dislike toward supports of the opposed party.
Full article: dx.doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12028
Brian Weeks and I have had a paper accepted at the International Journal of Public Opinion Research that examines how political misperceptions can influence vote choice. We argue that rumor isn’t idle talk, but has real-world consequences. Email one of us if you’d like to see a prepress copy of the manuscript.
Update: The paper is now available online and in print: dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edu005
Brian Weeks will present his paper, “Feeling is believing? The influence of emotions on citizens’ false political beliefs” at APSA in Chicago later this week. Here’s the abstract:
Many Americans hold inaccurate beliefs about political candidates and issues, which are troublesome because evidence suggests people often behave in accordance with those misperceptions. Scholars have recently begun to explore why citizens are misinformed and most extant research uses partisan-based explanations to examine this phenomenon. In the current study, I argue that using party affiliations as the primary explanatory factor is limited in helping to understand why or how citizens are misinformed and instead make the case for discrete emotions as the mechanism driving false beliefs about politics. Using panel survey data (N = 1,004) collected over three waves during the 2012 presidential election I show that angry citizens are more likely to hold false beliefs about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The data also reveal that partisanship ceases to explain misperceptions about the candidates once the emotions anger and anxiety are accounted for. The findings indicate that false beliefs are driven in part by anger, suggesting future research on misperceptions must account for citizens’ feelings toward political targets.
A new conference paper, on the subject of affective polarization, is now available. In the U.S., affective polarization refers to the increasing hostility felt by both Democrats and Republicans toward those who belong to the opposing party. Although not directly related to misperceptions, this phenomenon has important implications for Americans’ willingness to listen to and engage with the other side, activities which can promote better understanding and more accurate beliefs. This paper examines partisan online news media’s polarizing effects, considering the impact of both pro-party and counter-party exposure.
You can see the slides here: