A Framework for Biomarkers of COVID-19 Based on Neuromotor Coordination in Speech
Thomas F. Quatieri
Senior Staff, Human Health and Performance Systems Group, Lincoln Laboratory
Director, MIT Senseable City Lab
Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media
Erwin H. Schell Associate Professor of Management Science, MIT Sloan School of Management
Why do people believe and share misinformation, including entirely fabricated news headlines (“fake news”) and biased or misleading coverage of actual events ("hyper-partisan" content)? The dominant narrative in the media and among academics is that we believe misinformation because we want to – that is, we engage in motivated reasoning, using our cognitive capacities to convince ourselves of the truth of statements that align with our political ideology rather than to undercover the truth. In a series of survey experiments using American participants, my colleagues and I challenge this account. We consistently find that engaging in more reasoning makes one better able to identify false or biased headlines - even for headlines that align with individuals’ political ideology. These findings suggest that susceptibility to misinformation is driven more by mental laziness and lack of reasoning than it is by partisan bias hijacking the reasoning process. We then build on this observation to examine interventions to fight the spread of misinformation. We find - given this smaller-than-believed role of partisan bias - that crowdsourcing can actually be a quite effective approach for identifying misleading news outlets and news content. We also demonstrate the power of making the concept of accuracy top-of-mind, thereby increasing the likelihood that people think about the accuracy of headlines before they decide whether to share them online. Our results suggest that reasoning is not held hostage by partisan bias, but that instead our participants do have the ability to tell fake or inaccurate from real - if they bother to pay attention. Our findings also suggest simple, cost-effective behavioral interventions to fight the spread of misinformation.