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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 2.
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RSOS160802F7: Design schematic of Experiment 2.

Mentions: Experiment 2 was conducted in July 2016. As in Experiment 1, participants were presented with inaccurate statements and factual statements that Donald Trump mentioned on the campaign trail in 2015, and the objectively false statements were corrected and the true statements affirmed. However, unlike Experiment 1, all statements were attributed to Trump. The other predominant difference between the two experiments was that we varied the nature of the explanations regarding the veracity of the information. In Experiment 2, the same explanations came from different partisan sources. Specifically, we randomized the attribution of the explanation to follow one of three forms: (i) ‘According to Democrats’, (ii) ‘According to Republicans’ or (iii) ‘According to a non-partisan fact-checking website’. Participants rated their belief in the statements both before and immediately after the explanation (though not one week later). The study thus used a 2 × 3 × 3 design, with the within-subjects factors type of item (misinformation versus fact) and explanation source (Democrat versus Republican versus non-partisan), and a between-subjects factor of Trump support (Democrat versus Republican non-supporters versus Republican supporters). See figure 7 for a schematic of this design. Our prime dependent variables were participants' belief in the statements, as well as participants' self-reported support for Donald Trump.Figure 7.


Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon
Design schematic of Experiment 2.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

RSOS160802F7: Design schematic of Experiment 2.
Mentions: Experiment 2 was conducted in July 2016. As in Experiment 1, participants were presented with inaccurate statements and factual statements that Donald Trump mentioned on the campaign trail in 2015, and the objectively false statements were corrected and the true statements affirmed. However, unlike Experiment 1, all statements were attributed to Trump. The other predominant difference between the two experiments was that we varied the nature of the explanations regarding the veracity of the information. In Experiment 2, the same explanations came from different partisan sources. Specifically, we randomized the attribution of the explanation to follow one of three forms: (i) ‘According to Democrats’, (ii) ‘According to Republicans’ or (iii) ‘According to a non-partisan fact-checking website’. Participants rated their belief in the statements both before and immediately after the explanation (though not one week later). The study thus used a 2 × 3 × 3 design, with the within-subjects factors type of item (misinformation versus fact) and explanation source (Democrat versus Republican versus non-partisan), and a between-subjects factor of Trump support (Democrat versus Republican non-supporters versus Republican supporters). See figure 7 for a schematic of this design. Our prime dependent variables were participants' belief in the statements, as well as participants' self-reported support for Donald Trump.Figure 7.

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.