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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.

Weight Loss Goals For The New Year: How To Make Sure They’re Realistic

Weight loss goals are never easy to stick to in the new year: we all know how many people give up even before the end of January! But if you set your goals the right way, making sure they’re realistic, then you really can use the new year as a way of achieving the fitness levels you’ve always wanted.

Understanding Why People Fail

The main reason why people fail to meet their weight loss goals is because they aren’t motivated enough. When you aren’t motivated it’s easy to find other things to do instead of exercising, and it’s easy to start seeing exercise as a bore or a burden. This is why it’s important to set a resolution that really matters to you, instead of choosing an arbitrary goal.

How To Set Achievable Goals

The key is to make sure that the weight loss goals you set are achievable – both physically and mentally. First, you’ll need to start with motivation. Simply sitting down and thinking about all of the reasons why you want to lose weight or start exercising can get you excited about the prospect. Maybe you want to gain confidence, maybe you want to feel more energized again. Whatever it is, know what you are working for!

Next, you’re going to have to be honest with yourself and recognize your weaknesses. You’ve let things go for a reason – maybe you have a really sweet tooth, or maybe you got so busy or tired in your day to day life that exercise became less of a priority. By being really honest about what has stopped you in the past you can make sure you don’t repeat your mistakes.

Putting Together A Realistic Plan

Now that you’ve recognized your motivations and weaknesses, it’s time to put together a realistic plan. The more specific you are, the better – it’ll help keep you on track even through the tough days. This means setting a plan on how often you’ll exercise, where you’ll do it, and how long for. You’ll soon realize that it isn’t too difficult to fit 30 minutes of exercise into your day to day life!

Don’t forget that you’ll also need to combine dietary changes with your exercise. But don’t take on too much at once! Many people choose to go on crash diets in the new year only to give up within a few weeks. Start with something small, such as reducing the amount of sugar you put in your coffee. When you’re used to it, make another small change to your diet. The key is to make sure you’re not left craving all the foods you used to love – remember, the goal is to be realistic.

Obesity is a medical condition in which a person has an excessive amount of body fat. It is a major health concern worldwide, affecting an estimated 650 million adults. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for obesity is essential to preventing and managing this condition.

Symptoms

The symptoms of obesity can vary depending on the individual. However, some common symptoms include:

  1. Body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
  2. Increased risk of health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
  3. Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity
  4. Joint pain
  5. Fatigue or weakness
  6. Sleep apnea or other sleep disorders

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Causes

Obesity can have many causes, including:

  1. Overeating and a lack of physical activity
  2. Genetics and family history
  3. Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing's syndrome
  4. Medications, such as antidepressants and corticosteroids
  5. Age and gender
  6. Psychological factors, such as stress, depression, and anxiety

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

The treatment for obesity will depend on the individual and the severity of the condition. Some common treatments include:

  1. Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and losing weight if overweight or obese
  2. Behavioral therapy to address psychological factors, such as stress and depression, that may contribute to overeating
  3. Medications, such as orlistat and liraglutide, to help with weight loss
  4. Bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, for people with severe obesity

In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be necessary to manage obesity effectively.

Prevention

Preventing obesity is essential to reducing the risk of developing this condition. Some strategies for preventing obesity include:

  1. Exercising regularly
  2. Eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar, saturated and trans fats
  3. Limiting portion sizes and avoiding high-calorie, high-fat foods
  4. Drinking plenty of water instead of sugary beverages
  5. Getting enough sleep and managing stress
By taking these steps, you can reduce your risk of developing obesity and improve your overall health and well-being.

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.