Tracking the Spread of Political (Mis)Information Through Social Networks

27 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 26 Sep 2010

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU)

Christopher J. Fariss

Pennsylvania State University

Jason J. Jones

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook; University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

How are political knowledge and beliefs transmitted through social groups? We seek to demonstrate, through a variety of new experimental designs, that individuals change their responses to questions addressing their political knowledge when the responses of members of their social network are displayed. Further, we will investigate the effects of "social distance" (how well you know someone) and identity (whether conflicting information is seen as coming from known or anonymous individuals) on subjects' propensity to change their responses. Each experiment will consist of a pre- and post-test that will assess the respondents' factual knowledge about politics in addition to a battery of control questions. On the post-test, we will vary the information subjects receive about the answers provided on the pre-test by members of their social network. We hypothesize that subjects will amend their answers to conform to the answers provided by members of their social network. The variables of interest for our study will be the factors that moderate the propensity of a subject to adopt others' answers. We operationalize our main concept of interest within each experiment as both information and misinformation; i.e., factually incorrect information. The analysis of these informational mechanisms will create a more refined understanding of both the beneficial effects of social transmission of knowledge and the pathological effects such as "groupthink" - in which group cohesion and unanimity of thought is valued more highly than a realistic appraisal of the facts.

Suggested Citation

Bond, Robert M. and Fariss, Christopher J. and Jones, Jason J., Tracking the Spread of Political (Mis)Information Through Social Networks (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643969

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU) ( email )

Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

Christopher J. Fariss (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Jason Jeffrey Jones

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook ( email )

Stony Brook, NY 11794
United States

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

HOME PAGE: http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~jasonjones/

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