Category: Media

Conservatives Are More Likely To Share Fake News — But Only If They Are Low In Conscientiousness

By Emma Young

Why do people share fake news? All kinds of studies have looked into what encourages it, and which personal attributes play a role. As the authors of a new paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General point out, multiple studies have found that political conservatives are relatively more likely to disseminate false news than those on the political left. However, their new work finds that this is an over-simplification — that the link is “largely driven” by conservatives who are also low in conscientiousness. This is an important finding for a few reasons. On the upside, it’s a far less politically polarising message. On the downside, this group does not seem to be receptive to the main identified way of stopping fake news from spreading.

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Teaching People The Value Of Scientific Consensus Can Help To Correct False Beliefs

By Emma Young

How do we change beliefs that are contrary to the scientific consensus? Given that such misperceptions can be harmful to the believers, their families, and even to broader society, research in this area is vital. Now Aart van Stekelenburg at Radboud University and colleagues report preliminary but promising work finding that a brief training exercise on the value of scientific consensus, and how to look for it, can help. Their paper in Psychological Science suggests that this could be a more effective approach than just communicating what the scientific consensus is — at least, for some false beliefs.

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Massive Study Finds No Link Between Time Spent Playing Video Games And Wellbeing

By Emma L. Barratt

Video games are perhaps one of the most politicised forms of entertainment media out there. In the decades since they were first created, governments, politicians, health bodies and beyond have voiced concerns that the amount of time some players spend in these virtual worlds could be detrimental to their mental health.

Despite all this concern, there’s been a lack of high-quality research into the effect of video games on player wellbeing. To remedy this situation, Matti Vuorre and colleagues at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with several large game publishers such as Nintendo and Square Enix, conducted an ambitious longitudinal study. These fears, they conclude in their recent preprint on PsyArXiv, are unfounded.

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Negative Media Coverage Of Immigration Leads To Hostility Towards Immigrants And In-Group Favouritism

By Emily Reynolds

The media plays a huge part in shaping our understanding of the world, including how we respond to other people. Coverage of immigration is no different, and previous research has suggested that even subtle changes in language and framing can change the way people think about immigrants.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, looks at the real life impact of negative media portrayals of immigrants. It finds that negative coverage can increase hostility towards immigrants and favouritism towards members of the non-immigrant in-group — which can have serious financial, emotional and social consequences for communities.

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Conspiracy Theories Are More “Entertaining” Than The Truth — And This Helps Explain Why People Believe Them

By Emma Young

Conspiracy theories stoke anxiety and uncertainty and can even threaten the health of those who espouse them. Take Covid-19 anti-vaxxers, for example, who put themselves at risk by refusing a vaccine. So given those negative consequences, it’s surprising that conspiracy theories are so prolific.

Research shows that beliefs that other groups are colluding secretly to pursue malevolent goals (the definition of a conspiracy theory) are more common during times of crisis — like a global pandemic. Heightened anxiety is thought to lead people to (erroneously) believe that there are hostile forces at play. But now a paper in the British Journal of Psychology reveals another reason for why conspiracy theories can be appealing. Jan-Willem van Prooijen at the Free University Amsterdam and colleagues found that conspiracy theories provoke a stronger emotional reaction than relatively dull-but-true reality — and this encourages belief in them, especially for people who have the personality trait of being “sensation-seeking”.

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Want To Know Whether A Movie Or Book Will Be A Hit? Look At How Emotional The Reviews Are

By Emma Young

You want to choose a new vacuum cleaner, or book, or hotel, or kids’ toy, or movie to watch — so what do you do? No doubt, you go online and check the star ratings for various options on sites such as Amazon or TripAdvisor, and so benefit from the wisdom of crowds.

However, there are problems with this star-based system, as a new paper in Nature Human Behaviour makes clear. Firstly, most ratings are positive — so how do you choose between two, or potentially many more, products with high ratings, or even the same top rating? Secondly, star ratings aren’t a great predictor of the success (and so actual general appeal and approval) of a movie, book, and so on, note Matthew D. Rocklage at the University of Massachusetts and his colleagues. The team presents an alternative method for picking the best product and also predicting success, which focuses on the emotional responses of the reviewers.

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What Makes For A “Meaningful” Death In Fiction?

By Emily Reynolds

Death can be a powerful narrative tool. We sob over the demise of a beloved character, cheer at the comeuppance of our favourite villain, or sit at the edge of our seats, shocked at deaths we didn’t see coming. Red Wedding, anyone?

All deaths are not created equal, however, and in a new study Kaitlin Fitzgerald from the State University of New York and team look at what makes certain fictional deaths so memorable. The team reports that although we find some deaths pleasurable — the long-awaited downfall of an antagonist, for example — it’s those we find meaningful that truly stick with us in the long-term.

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Film Soundtracks Shape Our Impressions Of A Character’s Personality And Thoughts

By Emma Young

If you sit down to watch TV or a film these holidays, you might want to pay a little extra attention to how the soundtrack makes you feel. We all know that background music influences the tone of a scene but what, exactly, soundtracks do to our understanding of a character has not been studied in detail. In a new paper, in Frontiers in Psychology, Alessandro Ansani at Roma Tre University, Italy, and colleagues report work aimed at filling in some of the gaps.

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Study Finds People Who Played Video Games For Longer Had Greater Wellbeing (But Direction Of Causality Isn’t Yet Clear)

Photo: A user plays Animal Crossing, one of the games studied in the new research. William West/AFP via Getty Images

By Matthew Warren

Video games get blamed for a lot. There are long-standing debates about whether violence in video games leads to real-world aggression, or whether video game “addiction” is something we should worry about. And some people have broader fears that more time spent on screens negatively affects our mental health and wellbeing.

However, an increasing number of studies have failed to find much evidence to back up these kinds of concerns. But the field suffers from some pretty big limitations. In particular, studies often rely on people reporting their own time spent consuming media — and we’re notoriously unreliable at making those sorts of estimates.

Enter a new study from Niklas Johannes and colleagues at the Oxford Internet Institute, published as a preprint on PsyArxiv earlier this week. The researchers find that more time spent playing video games actually relates to greater wellbeing (though there are plenty of caveats to that finding — more on those later). But the most interesting part of the study is really its methodology: rather than relying on people reporting their own video game use, the researchers established a rare collaboration with games companies in order to get precise data.

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People Who Crave Structure Are More Likely To Declare That Errors In Media Reports Are “Fake News”

By Emily Reynolds

There’s been much interest in what drives fake news over the last few years: who exactly shares it, and why? But beyond actual fake news — that is, purposefully misleading information spread online to further a particular agenda — recent years have also seen many people labelling genuine journalism as untrustworthy or downright false.

There are obvious ideological drivers to this, with some keen to undermine political opponents by any means necessary. But there might be another reason people are drawn to declaring “fake news!”: a need for order.

Viewing publications as susceptible to honest mistakes or human error implies a world in which information can be distorted for unpredictable reasons; viewing them as deliberately and methodically deceiving readers for sinister reasons, on the other hand, implies some sort of order. It therefore follows that those who crave structure may also be more likely to deem articles false, suggest Jordan R. Axt from McGill University and colleagues in a study in Psychological Science.

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