The Passive Acquisition of Misinformation from Social Media

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Hunt, Andrew Paul
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Middle Tennessee State University
In this experiment, participants read fake Facebook statuses, unaware that they contained information about general world knowledge. Participants believed that they were participating in a study examining the effect of social media layouts on spatial attention. Participants in the “Correct” condition read Facebook statuses that contained correct facts. Participants in the “Neutral” condition read statuses that alluded to the target facts but did not state them outright. In the “Misleading” condition, participants read statuses identical to the “Correct” condition with the only difference being that the correct target facts were replaced with incorrect words or names. Following the readings, participants then took a spatial visualization test in order to maintain the deception that the experiment was tied to visuospatial attention and to act as a time delay. Participants were then given a 50-question test of general knowledge. The test contained questions related to the target facts from the posts in order to assess whether or not participants would use information from potentially unreliable sources to answer those questions. Participants used information from the posts to answer the questions and many believed that the information was something that they had “always known.” The results suggest that people may be prone to learn misinformation from social media when we are simply “scrolling” through posts in our social networks. People may then integrate that information into their memory as something that is just known.
Facebook, False Memory, Misinformation, Social Media