First, most people consider themselves above average at spotting misinformation. And, second, misinformation often triggers negative emotions that resonate with people.

The findings may help communicators share accurate information more effectively.

“This study gives us more insight into how users respond to misinformation about the pandemic on social media platforms,” says Yang Cheng, an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University and first author of the study in Online Information Review. “It also gives us information we can use to share accurate information more effectively.”

For the study, researchers conducted a survey of 1,793 US adults. The survey asked a range of questions designed to address four issues:

  • The extent to which study participants felt COVID misinformation online affected them and others;
  • The extent to which misinformation triggered negative emotions;
  • Their support for government restrictions on social media and misinformation;
  • Their support for media literacy training and other corrective actions.

One of the most powerful findings was that study participants overwhelmingly thought that other people were more vulnerable to misinformation. This phenomenon is known as the “third-person effect,” which predicts that people perceive media messages as having a greater effect on others than on themselves.

“This makes it harder to get people to participate in media literacy education or training efforts, because it suggests that most people think everyone else needs the training more than they do,” Cheng says.

Read the full article about COVID-19 misinformation by Matt Shipman at Futurity.