Abstract: This study examined how individuals’ emotional and cognitive responses to different shades of truth embedded in health crisis (mis)information (i.e., full falsity vs. partial falsity vs. full truth) might predict their information vetting and sharing intentions on social media. In the context of COVID-19 and based on an online survey of 725 UK WhatsApp users, the key findings of our study include: 1) Various shades of truth in provided COVID-19 information directly triggered participants’ sense of hope and influenced their intentions to vet and share the (mis)information they read; 2) Hope, confusion, and misinformation belief functioned as affective and cognitive predictors for whether and how individuals intended to share the (mis)information with immediate family members and strangers in their social networks. Multi-group mediation models further revealed the critical role hope played in evoking other emotions (i.e., confusion and anxiety) and forming misinformation belief, which in turn, led to varied (mis)information vetting and sharing behavioral intentions.
Santosh Vijaykumar, Daniel Rogerson, Yan Jin, and Mariella Silva de Oliveira Costa. (forthcoming). “Dynamics of Feedback Behaviours to Social Peers Sharing COVID-19 Misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil.”
Abstract: Online COVID-19 misinformation is a serious concern in Brazil, home to the second largest WhatsApp user base and the second highest number of COVID-19 deaths. We examined the extent to which WhatsApp users themselves might be willing to correct their peers who might share COVID-19 misinformation. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey using Qualtrics among 726 Brazilian adults to identify types of peer feedback behaviours and health and technological factors that shape the performance of these behaviours. We discovered three ways in which feedback may or may not be delivered to social peers: active feedback to the group, active feedback to the sender only (private), and passive or no feedback. Our study found that those with lower levels of educational attainment and from younger age groups were less inclined to actively provide feedback. Lastly, we found that perceived severity of COVID-19 and the ability to critically evaluate a message were positively associated with providing feedback to either the group or privately the sender. The demographic analysis points to the need to strengthen information literacy among population groups that are younger with lower levels of educational attainment. These efforts could facilitate micro or individual-level contributions to the global fight against the infodemic led by the World Health Organisation in collaboration with member states, social media companies and civil society. Our study suggests that Brazil’s WhatsApp users might be willing to actively respond with feedback when exposed to COVID-19 misinformation by their peers on small world networks like WhatsApp groups.
Abstract: We examined how age and exposure to different types of COVID-19 (mis)information affect misinformation beliefs, perceived credibility of the message and intention-to-share it on WhatsApp. Through two mixed-design online experiments in the UK and Brazil (total N = 1,454) we first randomly exposed adult WhatsApp users to full misinformation, partial misinformation, or full truth about the therapeutic powers of garlic to cure COVID-19. We then exposed all participants to corrective information from the World Health Organization debunking this claim. We found stronger misinformation beliefs among younger adults (18-54) in both UK and Brazil and possible backfire effects of corrective information among older adults (55+) in the UK. Corrective information from the WHO was effective in enhancing perceived credibility and intention-to-share of accurate information across all groups in both countries. Our findings call for evidence-based infodemic interventions by health agencies, with greater engagement of younger adults in pandemic misinformation management efforts.