Biases

Poynter Results

  • Bullshitting is socially constructed

    In this study, the author aims to figure out what makes people take up bullshitting, or "communications that result from little to no concern for truth, evidence and/or established semantic, logical, systemic, or empirical knowledge." To do that, he ran two separate experiments: One in which he tested how social conditions affect one’s likelihood to bullshit and the other in which he analyzed how being held accountable affected bullshitting. In the first, the author used data from a questionnaire that 594 participants on Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform filled out and found that bullshitting was largely fueled by social pressures. In the second, the author drew upon questionnaire data from 234 undergraduate psychology students and found that behavior is augmented when people feel like they won’t be held accountable for or have to explain their bullshit.

     

    Study Title
    Antecedents of bullshitting
    Study Publication Date
    Study Authors
    John V.Petrocelli
    Journal
    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
    Peer Reviewed
    Yes
    Sample
    Non-representative
    Inferential approach
    Experimental
    Number of studies citing
    0
  • In surveys, respondents 'say what they mean and mean what they say'

    Through four different experiments, this study tries to separate genuine belief in two polarizing conspiracy theories — "Obama is Muslim" and "9/11 was an inside job" — from expressive responses, sometimes called "partisan cheerleading." In the first experiment, respondents are explicitly asked to respond regardless of how they feel about the people and policies mentioned. In the second, some respondents were told that sometimes people "say they do believe [false rumors] so they can say something bad about the people and policies mentioned." In the third, respondents who rejected the rumor could skip to the end of the survey. In the fourth and final the rumor was inserted in a list of items respondents could agree or disagree with. Across the board, Berinsky found very low rates of expressive responding, leading him to conclude that “it seems that when people answer survey questions, they say what they mean and they mean what they say.”

    Study Title
    Telling the Truth about Believing the Lies? Evidence for the Limited Prevalence of Expressive Survey Responding
    Study Publication Date
    Study Authors
    Adam Berinsky
    Journal
    The Journal of Politics
    Peer Reviewed
    Yes
  • Politicians also display motivated reasoning

    954 Danish local politicians were given tables comparing user satisfaction at two different schools, road providers or rehabilitation services. In all cases, one provider was clearly better than the other, if only slightly, with satisfaction rates working out to 84 percent versus 75 percent. In a control group, politicians were capable of spotting the better provider. However, when told that one provider was public and one private, prior attitudes towards privatization of public services kicked in. The study found that politicians who were given information that conformed with their ideology interpreted the information correctly 84-98 percent of the time.

    Study Title
    The Role of Evidence in Politics: Motivated Reasoning and Persuasion among Politicians
    Study Publication Date
    Study Authors
    Martin Baekgaard, Julian Christensen, Casper Mondrup Dahlmann, Asbjørn Mathiasen, Niels Bjørn Grund Petersen
    Journal
    British Journal of Political Science
    Peer Reviewed
    Yes
  • The more partisan your online news diet, the less likely you are to believe fact-checkers

    This study was conducted ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Respondents were asked whether they were aware of experts' conclusions on four political misconceptions, whether they believed them and which online news outlets they consumed. Frequent conservative online news consumers had a 33 percent chance of being wrong about President Obama's birth certificate despite knowing what most journalists had concluded about it. Only 3 percent of those not reading conservative news held that same belief. Conversely, a frequent liberal online news user had a 10 percent chance of being wrong about Mitt Romney outsourcing jobs during his tenure at Bain even though they correctly indicated what fact-checkers findings were. Researchers concluded that there may be a relationship between partisan media use and political misconceptions.

    Study Title
    Driving a Wedge Between Evidence and Beliefs: How Online Ideological News Exposure Promotes Political Misperceptions
    Study Publication Date
    Study Authors
    R. Kelly Garrett, Brian E. Weeks, Rachel L. Neo
    Journal
    Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
    Peer Reviewed
    Yes
  • Debunking in a World of Tribes

    This study examined how effective online debunking is by employing a quantitative analysis of 54 million U.S. Facebook users over a five year period. Researchers compared how users interacted with proven and unsubstantiated Facebook posts and found consumers of conspiracy theories and fact-based reporting mostly engaged in separate echo chambers. The study found that debunking posts were largely ineffective due to the fact that consumers of conspiracy theories didn't frequently interact with them, and when they did, they reacted negatively.

    Study Title
    Debunking isn't very effective in conspiracy theory echo chambers
    Study Publication Date
    Study Authors
    Fabiana Zollo, Alessandro Bessi, Michela Del Vicario, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, Louis Shekhtman, Shlomo Havlin, Walter Quattrociocchi
    Journal
    Public Library of Science
    Peer Reviewed
    Yes
 
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