: Though much scholarship has examined misinformation content, susceptibility, and its influence on beliefs, there remains a great deal to learn about the downstream consequences of misinformation on decision-making, attitudes, and behavior, especially over an extended period of time and outside of laboratory contexts. This project provides scientific evidence closing this gap. Our overarching thesis is that misinformation exposure and endorsement amplify culturally driven polarization of COVID-19 risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behaviors in a reinforcing spiral over time. Previous research has examined how worldviews and/or online media relates to beliefs, emotions, and behaviors in infectious disease outbreaks but have done so either cross-sectionally, with only a few time points, and without directly considering the role of misinformation. In contrast, we specifically examine influences of misinformation exposure and endorsement on risk perceptions and behavior over an extended time unlike previous research. We use a model integrating psychological and communication theories of risk, belief change, and decision-making to test our reinforcing spiral thesis. We examine and test our thesis with an innovative integration of social media activity, content coding, longitudinal survey panel data, and online behavioral data collected over a seven month study period. We also hypothesize that self-affirmation may be a means to reduce the influence of misinformation within this self-reinforcing spiral and design an experimental intervention integrated into the panel survey design. Therefore, this project presents an important and rare opportunity for modelling the downstream consequences of health misinformation about an evolving major health crisis as it unfolds, rather than retrospectively, while generating new scientific insights about processes by which misinformation harms individuals and society.
|Effective start/end date||8/1/20 → 7/31/22|
- National Science Foundation (SES-2031705)
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