Science Alert has reported that new research found that people who only read small parts of their newsfeed on Facebook generally think they know more than they really do.
Many overestimate their knowledge after looking briefly at article previews instead of reading the full story. This is especially accurate for people whose knowledge is dictated by strong emotions.
"Because most social media users only have a passing engagement with posted news, exposure to political information on social media may simply create the illusion of political learning," write the researchers at the York College of Pennsylvania.
The study divided participants into three groups to measure the knowledge they gained on an issue and how much knowledge they thought they gained. The first group was asked to read the full article about genetically modified (GM) food. The second group was given a Facebook newsfeed with four article previews, one of which was the GM article. The third group was given no information.
Participants were then asked to answer six questions about the article and then were asked to estimate how many questions they got right, which would measure their confidence levels. Those who read the full article answered the most questions correctly. Those who read the preview only scored one more correct answer than those who were given no information.
These findings suggest that those who read the previews were much too confident in their knowledge. More, those who were more driven by emotion were more certain of their rightness.
"Those who are more driven by emotion allow the positive feelings associated with being right to override the need for actual accuracy," the authors write, "thus coming away from limited exposure to information falsely overconfident in their knowledge of the subject matter."
This false confidence phenomenon makes users more susceptible to fake news and misinformation. More, 67 percent of Americans get news from social media, so the issue is even more pronounced.
The study discovered that the average Facebook user clicks on only about seven percent of political stories, meaning that they are getting small amounts of information and a lot of misguided confidence.
"As Facebook is increasingly relied on as a news source, audiences' overconfidence could be potentially troublesome, especially if the perceived knowledge gain is based on misinformation," the authors conclude.
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