What makes a news story credible? An American study investigates

·2-min read
Nearly 80% of Americans rely on their instincts to judge the credibility of information.

Don't read news items that go against your worldview? You're not alone, according to a new study from Bentley University. US researchers have found that readers have trouble conceiving of events they find implausible.

Sandeep Purao and colleagues studied readers' reactions to partisan news sites when confronted with a news event that rattles their worldview. They looked at events related to the 2017 Alabama Senate campaign. While this election is usually a formality for Republican candidates, ultraconservative former judge Roy Moore's campaign was marred by numerous accusations of sexual assault.

The researchers analyzed comments from readers of the liberal news site Daily Kos and from those who subscribe to the conservative political media outlet Breitbart News. While these two groups do not have the same view of the events of Roy Moore's Senate campaign, they use the same mechanisms to cast doubt on facts they find implausible.

Trust your instincts

Some readers posted comments questioning the motives of the various parties involved in the scandal. Others shared misinformation, while some even engaged in personal attacks. Strategies that researchers describe as "breakdowns" to prevent the group from recognizing a new event.

"We are still trying to understand the causes of disinformation and political echo chambers. Our study provides a window into how deliberation can break down in closed groups," noted Dr Sandeep Purao, one of the lead authors of the study .

The Pew Research Center also looked at this issue through a survey , which sought to determine what factors Americans feel are important in judging the trustworthiness of a news story. While the vast majority of respondents (88%) rely on the news organization that shared the information, 77% rely on their instincts. This is especially true among African-Americans (38%), much less so among Hispanics (26%) and people of Asian descent (22%).

Caroline Drzewinski

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting