To be clear, present analysis has discovered that conservatives have a better tendency towards misinformation than liberals do. For instance, throughout the 2016 election, people who leaned conservative had been extra doubtless to interact with and share disinformation on Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, in the early months of the pandemic, conservatives had been extra doubtless to imagine Covid-19 was a hoax, and to downplay the virus’ severity.
Nevertheless, provided that conservatism traditionally has been related to respect for custom, authority and social establishments, we reasoned that ideology alone won’t clarify the unfold of pretend information. We determined to examine the function personality traits may play, focusing our analysis on conscientiousness — the tendency to regulate one’s own behavior by being much less impulsive and extra orderly, diligent and prudent. Our presumption was that conservatives with decrease ranges of conscientiousness can be extra inclined to unfold pretend information, and that there can be no distinction between extremely conscientious conservatives and their liberal counterparts.
We examined these hypotheses throughout eight experimental research with a pattern dimension of greater than 4,600 members in complete. In every research, members reported their political ideology and responded to a number of questions evaluating their tendency towards conscientious on a five-point scale. They then had been uncovered to a sequence of pretend and actual information headlines — a combination of impartial, conservative or liberal-leaning of their information content material — and requested to point out their willingness to share these information tales with different individuals.
We discovered that low-conscientiousness liberals, high-conscientiousness liberals and high-conscientiousness conservatives every expressed willingness to share pretend information articles to an analogous — comparatively small — diploma. LCCs stood out: On common, they had been 2.5 instances extra doubtless to share misinformation than the mixed averages of the different three teams. In different phrases, it was the mixture of conservatism and low conscientiousness that resulted in the biggest chance to share misinformation.
We additionally wished to perceive what, precisely, drives LCCs to unfold misinformation. So, in a single of the research, we requested members to report their leanings on a spread of potential influences: degree of assist for Trump, time spent on social media, mistrust of the mainstream media, and endorsement of conservative social and financial values. To our shock, none of these elements was a dependable predictor of LCCs’ elevated tendency to share false information tales.
As a substitute, utilizing statistical evaluation, we discovered that the solely dependable clarification was a basic desire for chaos — that’s, a motivation to disregard, disrupt, and take down present social and political establishments as a way of asserting the dominance and superiority of one’s personal group. Members indicated their urge for food for chaos by using a scale to categorical how a lot they agreed with statements like, “I feel society ought to be burned to the floor.” For LCCs, we concluded, sharing false data is a automobile for propagating chaos.
Can LCCs be prevented from sharing falsities? One of the commonest measures for combating misinformation is utilizing accurate messaging or fact-checker interventions, which have been proven to reduce the sharing of misinformation. Sadly, in two research, we discovered that fact-checking warnings had been insufficient: LCCs continued to share pretend information tales at the next charge in contrast with liberals and high-conscientiousness conservatives, regardless of being informed the information was inaccurate.
It is a regarding discovering. At the similar time, our analysis general suggests a path ahead. First, these searching for to fight false data on-line can now goal their interventions towards a smaller subset of the inhabitants: LCCs. Extra focused approaches have been shown to be effective in influencing particular person conduct in the previous.
Second, our analysis makes clear that anybody making an attempt to attain LCCs wants to experiment with interventions that transcend fact-checking. We imagine the onus falls totally on social media corporations. There’s loads of proof that a user’s personality and political ideology will be inferred based mostly on their social media exercise. If these corporations can determine LCCs, which means they may also be proactive in ensuring LCCs are introduced with dependable data, and never with falsities.
Misinformation is a critical risk to American democracy that deserves critical consideration. However we ought to be good about how we go about combating the unfold of pretend information tales. Whereas our analysis doesn’t present all the solutions, it may assist to slender the focus of these efforts and, in the course of, ought to divert blame away from these conservatives who aren’t sharing misinformation.