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Americans share fake news to fit in with social circles

  • Journalism and Facts
  • Social Media and Internet
  • Politics

Fear of exclusion contributes to spread of fake news, research finds

Read the journal article

  • Tribalism and Tribulations (PDF, 495KB)

WASHINGTON — Both conservative and liberal Americans share fake news because they don’t want to be ostracized from their social circles, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Conformity and social pressure are key motivators of the spread of fake news,” said lead researcher Matthew Asher Lawson, PhD, an assistant professor of decision sciences at INSEAD, a business school in France. “If someone in your online tribe is sharing fake news, then you feel pressure to share it as well, even if you don’t know whether it’s false or true.”

The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

The proliferation of fake news contributes to increasing political polarization and distrust of democratic institutions, according to the Brookings Institution. But fake news doesn’t always proliferate due to dark motives or a call for action. The researchers began studying the issue after noticing people in their own social networks sharing fake news seemingly without malicious intent or ideological purpose.

“Political ideology alone doesn’t explain people’s tendency to share fake news within their social groups,” Lawson said. “There are many factors at play, including the very basic desire to fit in and not to be excluded.”

One experiment analyzed the tweets and political ideology of more than 50,000 pairs of Twitter users in the U.S., including tweets sharing fake or hyper-partisan news between August and December 2020. (Political ideology was determined through a network-based algorithm that imputes ideology by looking at the types of accounts Twitter users follow.) The number of tweets between pairs of Twitter users in the same social circles were measured. Twitter users were less likely to interact with each other over time if one of them shared a fake news story and the other did not share that same story. The same effect was found regardless of political ideology but was stronger for more right-leaning participants.

A second experiment analyzed 10,000 Twitter users who had shared fake news in the prior test, along with another group that was representative of Twitter users in general. Twitter users who had shared fake news were more likely to exclude other users who didn’t share the same content, suggesting that social pressures may be particularly acute in the fake news ecosystem.

Across several additional online experiments, participants indicated a reduced desire to interact with social connections who failed to share the same fake news. Participants who were more concerned about the social costs of not fitting in were also more likely to share fake news.

While fake news may seem prolific, prior research has found that fake news only accounts for 0.15% of Americans’ daily media consumption, and 1% of individuals are responsible for 80% of fake news sharing. Other research found that election-related misinformation on Twitter decreased by 73% after Donald Trump was banned from the platform.

Many complex factors contribute to people’s decisions to share fake news so reducing its spread is difficult, and the role of social media companies isn’t always clear, Lawson said.

“Pre-bunking” methods that inform people about the ways that misinformation spreads and highlighting the importance of the accuracy of news can help reduce the spread of fake news. However, finding ways to ease the social pressure to conform in online spaces may be needed to start winning the war on misinformation, Lawson said.

Article: “Tribalism and Tribulations: The Social Costs of Not Sharing Fake News,” Matthew Asher Lawson, PhD, INSEAD, Shikhar Anand, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and Hemant Kakkar, PhD, Duke University, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published online March 9, 2023.

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Symptoms

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Some of these risk factors, such as genetics and age, cannot be changed. However, others, such as overeating and a lack of physical activity, can be modified to reduce the risk of developing obesity.

Treatment

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Conclusion

Obesity is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for obesity is essential to preventing and managing this condition. By making healthy lifestyle choices and seeking medical treatment when necessary, you can reduce your risk of developing obesity and lead a healthy, active life.

Introduction

Nearly 7% of the world population is obese1 and about 66% of the adults in the United States are overweight or obese.2 Obesity is associated with a number of adverse medical conditions including increased risk of gallbladder disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease (CHD), osteoarthritis, cancer death and reduced life expectancy.38 Obesity is also associated with adverse social and psychological consequences, including bias, discrimination and decreased quality of life.9,10

More effective treatment strategies are urgently needed for obesity management. The total caloric intake or energy density of one’s diet appears to be associated with obesity1114 and a diet that induces a negative energy balance continues to be an important part of obesity management. Strategies to achieve the difficult task of eating less than desired include reduction of the energy density of foods by increasing food volume by the addition of fluids,15,16 bulk1719 or their combination;20 or by increasing satiety by various anorectic drugs or macronutrient combinations of high satiety value.

Satiety is positively associated with the protein, fiber and water content of foods and negatively with fat and palatability ratings.21,22 However, within food groups, there may be as much as a twofold difference in satiety values, suggesting that certain foods promote greater satiety independent of macronutrient content or energy density. An egg is an example of such a food that has a 50% greater satiety index compared to white bread or ready-to-eat breakfast cereal.21 Compared to an isocaloric bagel breakfast of equal weight, an egg breakfast had a greater satiating effect, which translated into a lower caloric intake at lunch.23 The resulting decrease in energy consumption lasted for at least 24 h after the egg breakfast.

This study was undertaken to exploit the short-term satiating benefits of an egg breakfast23 for weight loss in a longer-term trial. The objectives were to determine if the incorporation of an egg breakfast in the diet by overweight or obese subjects would (1) induce reduced energy intake and unintentional weight loss, even when not attempting weight reduction; or (2) enhance weight loss when following a reduced energy diet. We compared the effects of an egg vs isocaloric bagel breakfast of equal weight on weight loss, indices of body size and composition, dietary compliance, food cravings and health-specific quality of life.Materials and methods

The study was approved by the institutional review boards at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and at Saint Louis University. Written informed consent was obtained from the participants. We certify that all applicable institutional and governmental regulations regarding the ethical use of human volunteers were followed during this research.

Participants

Of the 160 participants enrolled, 8 did not complete the trial. The final study sample included 152 participants (131 women and 21 men; mean age 45.0±9.4 years; black participants 47.7% and white participants 52.3%). Demographic characteristics of the participants are provided inTable 1