Emotional response can fuel the spread of "fake news"

From Facebook feeds to questionable websites, so-called "fake news" is seemingly everywhere. When it comes to the misleading information, our emotional response to seeing it can actually further its spread, according to a Bowling Green State University researcher.

Dr. Christy Galletta Horner, assistant professor in the BGSU College of Education and Human Development, and her team recently published research titled "Emotions: The Unexplored Fuel of Fake News on Social Media." In it, Galletta Horner studied how emotions are affected by false political headlines and how reactions determine whether "stories" are shared with others in an online environment.

Conducted in part with her father, a University of Pittsburgh professor, Galletta Horner's research focused on the 2020 Presidential Election. The duo surveyed 879 people, showing each person one of eight fake news headlines. Participants were then asked whether they would share the "story" or share opposing information, as well as how it made them feel.

The researchers found that participants fell into three categories:

  • Hot: People driven to share "fake news" by high emotions
  • Upset: People determined to stop the spread of "fake news" by negative emotions
  • Cold: People who don't react or intervene to stop the spread of "fake news" [Most participants fell into this category]

Galletta Horner also found that participants' political affiliations affected how they responded to and shared "fake news."

Journal reference:

Horner, C. G., et al. (2022) Emotions: The Unexplored Fuel of Fake News on Social Media. Journal of Management Information Systems. doi.org/10.1080/07421222.2021.1990610.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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