Sharing false political information on social media may be linked to personality disorder

Sharing false political information on social media may be linked to personality disorder

D'après l'étude de Tom Buchanan, plus une personne partage des informations politiques, plus elle risque logiquement de partager des fausses informations délibérément ou accidentellement. badahos/Getty Images

On social media, misinformation is everywhere. And while checking information is within everyone's reach, a minority of Internet users decide to share erroneous content, sometimes deliberately. A British study wanted to know what distinguished these people and to know their motivations.

Sharing false information about politics on social media may be linked to a personality disorder: schizotypy, says a study led by Tom Buchanan of the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom Uni, published in the journal Plos One.

Positive schizotypy is “a cluster of traits that includes paranoia, suspiciousness, and disrupted thought patterns”, according to the authors of this study. This personality disorder “is associated with decision-making based more on intuition – and sometimes prejudice – than on thoughtful, deliberate thinking”. Still, the researchers point out that this aspect reflects a “motivation to raise awareness” about a topic.

The research involved 1,916 Americans, divided into four studies. The first looked at the relationship between individual differences and the tendency of users to share this false information. The second study analyzed the reasons that motivate these people to share such false information. In the third study, participants, whose individual differences and motivations were assessed, were presented with a series of political news headlines, both true and false.

They were asked whether they would consider sharing each of them and whether they considered them to be true. In the fourth study, researchers evaluated actual tweets posted by participants. The objective was to determine whether the factors identified in Studies 1, 2 and 3 were associated with the actual sharing of false information on Twitter.

Manipulate and sow doubt

The researchers' findings are clear: a link has been established between positive schizotypy and the fact of sharing false information, whether the participants do so knowingly or not.

"While a range of motivations for sharing political information online were associated with sharing fake news, two seemed particularly important: desire sharing political information to attack or manipulate others, and the desire to share political information to raise awareness. Although individuals reported different motivations for sharing specific false stories, both factors appear to influence deliberate and accidental sharing of false stories", the report explains.

According to their explanations, this positive schizotypy is more associated with decision-making based on intuition but also on prejudices, rather than on "a thought reflected". If the researchers do not dispute the presumed complexity of the mechanism, they nevertheless observe that the participants frequently mentioned "sensitization" as the main motivation for sharing political information.

Some still want to sow chaos, knowing full well the inaccuracy of the information shared: "Another potentially important characteristic is the &# 39;need for chaos. This characteristic reflects the desire of certain individuals to disrupt society in order to improve their own (currently marginalized) status. It has been shown to influence motivation to share hostile political information and reports of deliberate sharing of false information", the researchers point out.

For the latter, the question is to better understand the reasons which push certain people to share this type of false information. "Understanding the role of motivation in more detail, as well as the effects of positive schizotypy, will likely be productive themes for future research on misinformation", they conclude.

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