You create your own false information, study finds | 12/9/2019 | Staff
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Along with partisan news outlets and political blogs, there's another surprising source of misinformation on controversial topics—it's you.

A new study found that people given accurate statistics on a controversial issue tended to misremember those numbers to fit commonly held beliefs.

Example - People - Number - Immigrants - United

For example, when people are shown that the number of Mexican immigrants in the United States declined recently—which is true but goes against many people's beliefs—they tend to remember the opposite.

And when people pass along this misinformation they created, the numbers can get further and further from the truth.

People - Misinformation - Sources - Jason - Coronel

"People can self-generate their own misinformation. It doesn't all come from external sources," said Jason Coronel, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

"They may not be doing it purposely, but their own biases can lead them astray. And the problem becomes larger when they share their self-generated misinformation with others."

Coronel - Study - Shannon - Poulsen - Matthew

Coronel conducted the study with Shannon Poulsen and Matthew Sweitzer, both doctoral students in communication at Ohio State. The study was published online in the journal Human Communication Research and will appear in a future print edition.

The researchers conducted two studies.

Study - Researchers - Participants - Descriptions - Issues

In the first study, the researchers presented 110 participants with short written descriptions of four societal issues that involved numerical information.

On two of those societal issues, the researchers did pre-tests and found that the factually accurate numerical relationship fit with many people's understanding of the issue. For example, many people generally expect more Americans to support same-sex marriage than oppose it, which coincides with public opinion polls.

Researchers - Participants - Issues - Numbers - People

But the researchers also presented participants with two issues for which the numbers didn't fit with how most people viewed the topics.

For example, most people believe that the number of Mexican immigrants in the United States grew between 2007 and 2014. But in fact, the number declined from 12.8 million...
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