Although real-time corrections are modestly more effective than delayed corrections overall, closer inspection reveals that this is only true among individuals predisposed to reject the false claim. In contrast, individuals whose attitudes are supported by the inaccurate information distrust the source more when corrections are presented in real time, yielding beliefs comparable to those never exposed to a correction.
R. Kelly Garrett and Brian E. Weeks, The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions (PDF).
Yesterday I published an article, Can Robots Tell the Truth?, that explores the Washington Post’s attempt to harness an algorithm that could conduct real-time fact checking on political speeches.
Today, Kelly and Brian forwarded this paper of theirs. It’s part of a larger project out of Ohio State University’s School of Communications called “Misperceptions in an Internet Era”. Their Twitter handle is @FalseBeliefNews.
So, if you take their findings and rewrite my headline, you’d end up with something along the lines of, “Who Cares if Robots Can Tell the Truth Because it’s not Going to Change Anyone’s Mind Anyway”.
Which is discouraging. — Michael.
If advertising is meant to be aspirational, these ads [in men’s magazines] are presenting a pretty sad version of what American men can aspire to be. And advertisers aren’t selling this hyper-masculine ideal to just any man: They’re specifically targeting the younger, poorer, less-educated guys in the supermarket aisle. In the latest issue of the journal Sex Roles, a trio of psychologists at the University of Manitoba analyzed the advertising images in a slate of magazines targeted at men, from Fortune to Field and Stream. They counted up the ads that depict men as violent, calloused, tough, dangerous, and sexually aggressive—what the researchers call “hyper-masculine”—then indexed them with the magazine’s target demographics. Hyper-masculine images, the researchers found, are more likely to be sold to adolescents, who find higher “peer group support” for manly-man behaviors. They’re also sold to working-class men, who are “embedded in enduring social and economic structures in which they experience powerlessness and lack of access to resources” like political power, social respect, and wealth, and so turn to more widely accessible measures of masculine worth—like “physical strength and aggression.
What can you say about someone who rewrites his sentences in his dreams? It has probably already been said. And it wasn’t every night that he, my third-person self, rewrote sentences in his sleep. Perhaps once a week or once every other week or once every three weeks—sometimes in fact two days in a row —whenever the subconscious compulsion took him…
…It usually happened on the road when he was sleeping in strange beds, and came about more often than not when he hadn’t had sex in a while not even with himself. So what he did, was doing perhaps, was masturbate his sentences. Was that what he was doing? Jerk them around to best advantage. Too often when he woke after hours of sleep-ridden revision, exhausted from prolonged creative effort, only the worst versions of the sentences awoke with him. His memory, he had to remind himself, traveled poorly in the night.
Misinformation is even more likely to travel and be amplified by the ongoing diversification of news sources and the rapid news cycle. Today, publishing news is as simple as clicking “send.” This, combined with people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, tends to magnify the effects of misinformation. Nyhan says that although a good dose of skepticism doesn’t hurt while reading news stories, the onus to prevent misinformation should be on political pundits and journalists rather than readers. “If we all had to research every factual claim we were exposed to, we’d do nothing else,” Nyhan says. “We have to address the supply side of misinformation, not just the demand side.”
Correcting misinformation, however, isn’t as simple as presenting people with true facts. When someone reads views from the other side, they will create counterarguments that support their initial viewpoint, bolstering their belief of the misinformation. Retracting information does not appear to be very effective either. Lewandowsky and colleagues published two papers in 2011 that showed a retraction, at best, halved the number of individuals who believed misinformation.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
An hour-long, 1998 talk by Postman on technology and society is available on YouTube (irony noted).
Perhaps the most crucial determinant of perceptions of bias in the news, however, is the extent to which news coverage is seen as disagreeing with one’s own views. Individuals who feel most strongly about an issue tend to see their own side’s views as being more a product of objective analysis and normative concerns, and less influenced by ideology, than the other side’s views.
Matthew C. Nisbet, Big Think. Why Partisans View Mainstream Media as Biased and Ideological Media as Objective.
Nisbet is co-author of a recently published book chapter on the social psychology of political communication (PDF).
In it, he and Lauren Feldman explore a phenomenon called “hostile media effect” in which news viewers selectively categorize “objective” facts presented to them in coverage of an event. In most instances, they label aspects of a news story as hostile to their position.
However, when presented with partisan news channels, consumers perceive less bias if the information conforms to their worldview.
“As news – particularly on cable TV and online – is infused with increasing amounts of opinion and ideology,” the duo write, “it [is] even easier for partisans to validate their personal political beliefs – by accepting at face value information that comports with their views while rejecting information that advocates for the other side. Thus, the relative hostile media effect may not only reflect partisan divides in news perceptions but may also contribute to the further polarization of political attitudes and knowledge across political systems.”