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The Effect of Disinformation on Opinion Formation: Experimental Analyses of the Effect and Role of Different Influencing Factors in a Multi-Method Design

Researchers Involved

Dr. Sabrina Heike Kessler

research areas

Covid-19
Media effects
Mis-/Disinformation
News
Online Survey
Politics
Research Methods
Social Media
Switzerland

timeframe

2022 - 2023

The Effect of Disinformation on Opinion Formation

Especially in times of crisis, disinformation flourishes on social media, and this can have negative effects on not only individuals but also society as a whole. The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of disinformation on social media on opinion formation and explore influencing factors. The particular focus of the project is on the role of repeated exposure to disinformation, the frequency of use of social media platforms, trust in social institutions, the use of warning labels in social media posts and individual online search processes in checking disinformation.

An experiment in an innovative multi-method design is planned (WP1). Eighty participants will be asked to identify disinformation communicated by different information sources and to verify it by means of online search. By means of eye-tracking, the reception behaviour when experiencing disinformation, as well as the reception and selection behaviour during internet search, will be recorded. By means of standardized online surveys, attitudes at different time points will be recorded.
In addition, a representative online survey experiment in two waves is planned (WP2). Here, the (long-term) effect of disinformation on social media will be analysed under four conditions: 1. one-time exposure on different social media platforms, 2. one-time exposure with warning labels, 3. repeated exposure on one social media platform, and 4. repeated exposure with warning labels. By interviewing all participants before and after stimulus exposure, the disinformation effect will be examined. A second wave of panel interviews after two weeks will measure whether and under what conditions opinion was influenced in the long term regarding the disinformation.

The project will examine the effect of politically motivated disinformation on recipients’ opinion formation and attitudes; the role of exposure frequency, social media use and trust in social institutions; and whether warning labels used or recipients influence the effect and identification of disinformation through their own online search. Relevant insights regarding the need for legal regulation can be expected from the results.

Background

Background

Especially in times of crisis, disinformation flourishes on social media, and this can have negative effects on not only individuals but also society as a whole. The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of disinformation on social media on opinion formation and explore influencing factors.

Research Questions

Research Questions

1. What effect does politically motivated disinformation have on the opinion formation and attitudes of recipients?
2. What role do repeated exposure to disinformation, frequency of use of social media platforms, trust in social institutions, and the use of warning labels in social media posts play in the identification and impact of disinformation?
3. What do individual search, selection and reception processes for checking disinformation look like, and what effect do these processes have on the recipient’s opinion formation and attitudes?

Project Aim

Project Aim

The project will examine the effect of politically motivated disinformation on recipients’ opinion formation and attitudes; the role of exposure frequency, social media use and trust in social institutions; and whether warning labels used or recipients influence the effect and identification of disinformation through their own online search.