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Description: You may have seen concerns raised in the media about the proliferation of fake or misleading news stories and especially how such stories can gain quite a high degree of traction through social media dissemination. Think about what you know about how Facebook is structured and used and then think about how that might contribute to (or not) the spread of fake or limited news stories. Once you have done that read the article linked below to see how some of this issue links into cognitive psychological theories about the nature of thought in general and about things like confirmation bias in particular.

Source: Study: Facebook can actually make us more narrow-minded, AJ Willingham, CNN, Health.

Date: January 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  CNN

Links:  Article Link — http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/22/health/facebook-study-narrow-minded-trnd/index.html

Facebook is an amazing mechanism for connecting people and organizations. However, unlike the web in general that somewhat passively waits to be sought out and searched Facebook is partly built to show you more of what you have already indicated you like or are interested in.  The researchers whose study is briefly discussed in the linked article point out that this facet of Facebook essentially reinforces a cognitive bias in how humans select and process information. Called confirmation bias it suggests that we are more likely to notice and process information that confirms beliefs or desires we already hold. During the last American federal election this meant that clusters of like-minded people were more engaged in sharing information that supported their beliefs than in regularly reviewing a broader array of views and perspectives as might be seen in mainstream media. The implications of this confluence of cognitive bias and limited exposure to broad arrays of information is discussed as a concern in light of the increasing number of fake or misleading “news stories” that seem to be popping up and getting circulated through social media. Critical thinking, as always, takes a bit of work and initiative.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is a confirmation bias?
  2. How are confirmation bias and Facebook similar? How are they different??
  3. What steps, if any, should regulators take in relation to this question? What steps should we, as individuals, take in relation to these questions?

References (Read Further):

Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., … & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), 554-559. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/3/554.full

Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of general psychology, 2(2), 175. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/70c9/3e5e38a8176590f69c0491fd63ab2a9e67c4.pdf

Oswald, M. E., & Grosjean, S. (2004). Confirmation bias. Cognitive illusions: A handbook on fallacies and biases in thinking, judgement and memory, 79.

Kassin, S. M., Dror, I. E., & Kukucka, J. (2013). The forensic confirmation bias: Problems, perspectives, and proposed solutions. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 2(1), 42-52.

Chou, H. T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 117-121.

Del Vicario, M., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., Stanley, H. E., & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). Modeling confirmation bias and polarization. arXiv preprint arXiv:1607.00022. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.00022.pdf%7D

Quattrociocchi, W., Scala, A., & Sunstein, C. R. (2016). Echo chambers on facebook. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/olin_center/papers/pdf/Sunstein_877.pdf

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