Research by Psychology graduate student, Madalina Vlasceanu, featured in Princeton Insights

April 29, 2020

Recent issues in society concern the spread of misinformation or "fake news", but how can communities combat this? Madalina's research sheds light on this question. She and her colleagues Michael Morais (graduate student, Princeton Neuroscience Institute), Ajua Duker (graduate student, Yale University), and Prof. Alin Coman (Psychology and Public Affairs) examined how communities of people converge on the same beliefs. They explored this in an experiment where they varied whether groups of participants were exposed to a public source of information (i.e., a public speaker) or not. She and her colleagues found that communities held similar beliefs when they were exposed to a public source, and they even found their own beliefs as more believable. Their beliefs converged even further when later individual conversations reiterated the same information conveyed by the public source. These findings suggest a compelling, yet simple explanation, to combat the spread of misinformation: by repeatedly offering competing, accurate information from a public source, rather than directly refuting false information, the believability of misinformation will decrease, resulting in a reduction of misinformation proliferating within a community.

Read it online: How do our beliefs converge?