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Father-daughter duo investigates the connection between emotions and fake news on social media

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ONEs the country is pondering the one year anniversary of the attempted uprising in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh aims to understand how emotions fuel the kind of fake news that brought more than 2,000 people to DC, to avenge the theft of an election that was not actually stolen.

the to learn, led by a Pitt father-daughter duo Christy Galletta Horner and Dennis Galletta, examines how people’s emotions are aroused by false political headlines – and how their reactions determine whether they spread that misinformation by sharing those stories with others divide.

“Emotions really seem to play a role in spreading fake news,” said Galletta Horner, now assistant professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and lead author of the study, in a press release. “Emotions are often ignored in research, and I think in this case it could be a mistake.”

According to the abstract of the study, the economics of emotion theory suggests that fake headlines be created in order to evoke emotional responses in readers that will induce them to interact with the article in a way that enables the creator to profit primarily through clicks to achieve. In other words, the stronger the emotional response to the headline, the more likely someone will share it, and the more someone shares it, the more money its creator will make.

The study used a mixed methods approach to better understand the process by which individuals experience emotional reactions to fake headlines.

During the 2020 election season, the team presented online polls to 879 participants and showed them one of eight fake news headlines, covering topics from political scandals to candidate health issues, involving either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. The survey asked if they would share the headline or contrary information and how they felt about it. They found that the participants were largely divided into three groups.

The first was most likely to say that they would share the headlines on the fake news.

“This is a group that loves all the emotions, this group of people we called ‘hot,'” said Galletta, co-author and professor of business administration at Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. “So we can’t just say that anger drives everything or that happiness drives everything. It really depends. “

The researchers called the second group “angry” users. This group reacted largely negatively to the headlines. But the majority of the participants fell into the “cold” group, which was less likely to share anything at all.

The political affiliation of the participants also influenced their reactions; People were more likely to share negative headlines about an opposing party. However, the researchers also found party-specific differences.

“The Independents seem to be the most skeptical of them all, and the Republicans believed the wrong headlines more, even when it came to Trump,” said Galletta.

In general, participants were more likely to believe headlines consistent with their existing beliefs (e.g., liberals were more likely to believe negative news about conservatives), reacted with more negative emotions to headlines attacking their party, and more likely to report intent to suppress (e.g., a link Posting for a fact check) fake news attacking one’s own party, the article summarized.

However, the researchers found that participants were recruited online and were not necessarily representative of the state of the United States

In abstracting the study, the researchers explain that the crux of the problem lies in the ease with which people can access or create fake news. The equipment, software, and platforms to create and distribute this media have all contributed to the large number of biased or untrue beliefs – some of which would otherwise be marginalized – that reach mainstream through these social networks.

Examples are the election fraud theory that mobilized the rioters into the country’s capital last year, and the “Qanon” theory, which claims “President Trump is waging a secret war against elitist Satan-worshiping pedophiles in government, business and the media,” according to the BBC. Qanon was also at the uprising with the presence of the so-called “Qanon shaman“, Was later identified as Jake Chansley, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in the riot at the US Capitol.

“Fake news is a social problem that both of us are very concerned about, and there is simply a great need for creative solutions and different perspectives,” said Galletta Horner.

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