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People’s understanding of the concept of misinformation

Osman, Magda; Adams, Zoe; Meder, Bjoern; Bechlivanidis, Christos; Verduga, Omar; Strong, Colin; (2022) People’s understanding of the concept of misinformation. Journal of Risk Research , 25 (10) pp. 1239-1258. 10.1080/13669877.2022.2049623. Green open access

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Abstract

In the main, work has focused on defining and conceptualising the term misinformation, why and how people share misinformation, as well as the consequences for individual behaviour and policy making. Misinformation is an especially live issue in the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and the communication that people use to inform their interpretations of risks, and claims about what is needed to reduce exposure and spread of the virus. However, we know very little about what the public take the concept of misinformation to mean. Therefore, here and for other matters of public interest, it is worth understanding what informs the way people report what misinformation means to them. To address this, we present findings from a large scale representative survey (N = 4,407) from four countries (Russia, Turkey, UK, USA) to investigate the various ways in which people understand the concept of misinformation. Intentionality appears to matter, where most agreement was for the general description of misinformation as ‘Information that is intentionally designed to mislead’ (69.00%). Relative to other sources (e.g. media, other people), experts (48.38%) and scientific evidence (60.20%) were the most common sources by which to determine that something is misinformation. Finally, looking at specific features of information, misinformation was most associated with information that exaggerated conclusions from facts (49.24%), didn’t provide a complete picture (48.83%), and was presented as fact rather than opinion or rumour (43.07%). In general, country and demographic factors (age, gender, education, marital status, employment status) did not appear to distinguish these patterns of responses. This work helps to reveal what people report they take the concept of misinformation to mean, which may inform ways of targeting it.

Type: Article
Title: People’s understanding of the concept of misinformation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2022.2049623
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2022.2049623
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Public understanding of misinformation, misleading information, scientific evidence, expert opinion
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10168189
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