By Peter Dizikes
As a social media user, you can be eager to share content. You can also try to judge whether it is true or not. But for many people it is difficult to prioritize both these things at once.
That’s the conclusion of a new experiment led by MIT scholars, which finds that even considering whether or not to share news items on social media reduces people’s ability to tell truths from falsehoods.
The study involved asking people to assess whether various news headlines were accurate. But if participants were first asked whether they would share that content, they were 35 percent worse at telling truths from falsehoods. Participants were also 18 percent less successful at discerning truth when asked about sharing right after evaluating them.
“Just asking people whether they want to share things makes them more likely to believe headlines they wouldn’t otherwise have believed, and less likely to believe headlines they would have believed,” says David Rand, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the study’s results. “Thinking about sharing just mixes them up.”