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Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon

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ABSTRACT

This study investigated the cognitive processing of true and false political information. Specifically, it examined the impact of source credibility on the assessment of veracity when information comes from a polarizing source (Experiment 1), and effectiveness of explanations when they come from one's own political party or an opposition party (Experiment 2). These experiments were conducted prior to the 2016 Presidential election. Participants rated their belief in factual and incorrect statements that President Trump made on the campaign trail; facts were subsequently affirmed and misinformation retracted. Participants then re-rated their belief immediately or after a delay. Experiment 1 found that (i) if information was attributed to Trump, Republican supporters of Trump believed it more than if it was presented without attribution, whereas the opposite was true for Democrats and (ii) although Trump supporters reduced their belief in misinformation items following a correction, they did not change their voting preferences. Experiment 2 revealed that the explanation's source had relatively little impact, and belief updating was more influenced by perceived credibility of the individual initially purporting the information. These findings suggest that people use political figures as a heuristic to guide evaluation of what is true or false, yet do not necessarily insist on veracity as a prerequisite for supporting political candidates.

No MeSH data available.


Design schematic of Experiment 1.
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RSOS160802F1: Design schematic of Experiment 1.

Mentions: To tease apart partisanship from candidate advocacy, we separated Republican participants into those who supported Trump and those who did not. This step is somewhat rare in studies of political cognition, but given the polarizing nature of Trump's candidacy within the Republican party at the time of the study, we felt it was inappropriate to mix these two groups. The study thus used a 2 × 2 × 2 × 3 design—type of item (misinformation versus fact) was a within-subjects factor, and the between-subjects factors were the source of information (Trump versus unattributed), study-test retention interval (immediate versus delayed) and Trump support (Democrat versus Republican non-supporters versus Republican supporters). See figure 1 for a schematic diagram of the experimental design. Our prime dependent variable was participants' belief in the inaccurate and factual statements measured on an 11-point scale, as well as participants' self-reported support for Donald Trump.Figure 1.


Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon
Design schematic of Experiment 1.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5383823&req=5

RSOS160802F1: Design schematic of Experiment 1.
Mentions: To tease apart partisanship from candidate advocacy, we separated Republican participants into those who supported Trump and those who did not. This step is somewhat rare in studies of political cognition, but given the polarizing nature of Trump's candidacy within the Republican party at the time of the study, we felt it was inappropriate to mix these two groups. The study thus used a 2 × 2 × 2 × 3 design—type of item (misinformation versus fact) was a within-subjects factor, and the between-subjects factors were the source of information (Trump versus unattributed), study-test retention interval (immediate versus delayed) and Trump support (Democrat versus Republican non-supporters versus Republican supporters). See figure 1 for a schematic diagram of the experimental design. Our prime dependent variable was participants' belief in the inaccurate and factual statements measured on an 11-point scale, as well as participants' self-reported support for Donald Trump.Figure 1.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

This study investigated the cognitive processing of true and false political information. Specifically, it examined the impact of source credibility on the assessment of veracity when information comes from a polarizing source (Experiment 1), and effectiveness of explanations when they come from one's own political party or an opposition party (Experiment 2). These experiments were conducted prior to the 2016 Presidential election. Participants rated their belief in factual and incorrect statements that President Trump made on the campaign trail; facts were subsequently affirmed and misinformation retracted. Participants then re-rated their belief immediately or after a delay. Experiment 1 found that (i) if information was attributed to Trump, Republican supporters of Trump believed it more than if it was presented without attribution, whereas the opposite was true for Democrats and (ii) although Trump supporters reduced their belief in misinformation items following a correction, they did not change their voting preferences. Experiment 2 revealed that the explanation's source had relatively little impact, and belief updating was more influenced by perceived credibility of the individual initially purporting the information. These findings suggest that people use political figures as a heuristic to guide evaluation of what is true or false, yet do not necessarily insist on veracity as a prerequisite for supporting political candidates.

No MeSH data available.