Title

Misleading Information in Social Media News: How Bias Affects Perceptions

Graduation Date

5-2017

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Director of the Honors Program

Gigi Gokcek, Ph.D.

First Reader

Veronica Fruiht, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Matt Davis, Ph.D.

Abstract

Correcting misinformation is challenging because of the difficulty in changing biases (Ecker et al., 2013). Biased decisions are learned behaviors. People choose information that they are more frequently exposed to and from which they gather rewards (Sali, Anderson, & Courtney, 2016). Social media has become a new reward system for biased information (Neubaum et al, 2016). The difficulty of correcting misinformation multiplies as people have begun choosing social media as their preferred news platform. Social media news has recently focused its reporting on police (Sela-Shayovitz, 2015). Among participants who saw a misleading clip before a longer video of a police/suspect interaction, those with negative perceptions of police would be less likely to change their perspectives after seeing the full video. This study utilized results from 23 adults ages 18 to 77. Participants were given surveys on media consumption and a modified Global Attitudes Toward Police Scale (Hurst & Frank, 2000). Participants were directed towards one of two scenarios: 1) viewing a short, misleading clip from a longer video or 2) viewing a short, representative clip from a longer video. Participants were then given a survey to record their impression of their video clip. Participants were then shown the full video, followed by the survey. Results demonstrated that participants’ personal bias did not have a significant influence on their perceptions of what occurred during the videos until viewing the full video. Results of showed the prevalence of confirmation bias over personal bias. Results also found that the representative video had a positive impact on participants’ perceptions despite previously held biases, mirroring the findings of previous research on the impact of positive messages in television (Brown, 1992). As social media news expands, and information becomes easier to send and receive, it is important to explore its uses as a positive tool.

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