I Am Proud of My National Identity and I Am Superior To You: The Role of Nationalism in Knowledge and Misinformation
34 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 31, 2020
The recent decade has witnessed a resurgence of nationalism across the world, which is evident in numerous sites such as offline protests to online discourse, from politics to science. Anecdotal evidence shows that nationalism narratives have become prevalent in dis(mis)information campaigns. The challenges posed by nationalism and misinformation have become more salient in the context of an increasingly fragmented, high-choice media environment. However, researchers know little about how one’s pride in their national identity and out-group derogation can influence one’s perception of misinformation and the role of media exposure in moderating the relationship between one’s nationalist attitudes and misinformation. Moreover, despite extensive studies on nationalism and misinformation in political communication, the role of nationalism in one’s processing of science misinformation is still not well-understood, which poses a critical challenge for informed citizenship. This paper theorizes the relationship between misinformation and nationalism in communication research by distinguishing various dimensions of nationalism and how they affect one’s belief in various types of science misinformation. Surveying a diverse sample of participants across mainland China (N=984), we find that pride in national identity does not always increase the misperception of science knowledge. However, out-group derogation substantially boosts one’s misperception of factual knowledge of science, epistemic knowledge of science, and conspiratorial thinking. Interestingly, out-group derogation also decreases certainty perception of misinformation. We also find that people’s exposure to social and traditional media strengthens the impact of out-group derogation on misperception of science knowledge. These findings suggest that nationalism is a central critical vector for misinformation to affect knowledge beyond the domain of political communication. Our findings provide important suggestions for fostering an informed citizenry and correcting misperceptions in a high-choice media environment.
Keywords: misinformation, national identity, out-group derogation, media exposure, belief certainty
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