Correlation ≠ Causation, Causality may flow the other direction, etc.
From NiemanLab, November 20:
Polarizing the network: The most interesting new digital and social media research
Journalist’s Resource sifts through the academic journals so you don’t have to. Here’s their latest roundup, including research into how Twitter impacts reporters’ news judgment, how often we remember where we read something, and why Facebook makes you feel bad
...MUCH MOREEditor’s note: There’s a lot of interesting academic research going on in digital media — but who has time to sift through all those journals and papers?Scholars in the digital media and journalism space have focused a lot of attention on Twitter in recent months, examining how the busy platform influences people’s behavior — including reporters’ news judgment. Below, we’ve gathered five peer-reviewed papers we thought you’d want to know about, three of which look at journalists’ relationships with social media. We also included a new study from researchers at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford that has implications for news branding and efforts to build public trust in journalism.
Our friends at Journalist’s Resource, that’s who. JR is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and they spend their time examining the new academic literature in media, social science, and other fields, summarizing the high points and giving you a point of entry.
Here, JR’s managing editor, Denise-Marie Ordway, sums up some of the most interesting papers in digital media and journalism published between August and October. (You can also check out her roundups from the first and second quarters of the year.)
Happy reading! And remember, if you come across a good study you think we should spotlight, let us know about it at @JournoResource.
“Exposure to opposing views on social media can increase political polarization”: From Duke University, Brigham Young University and New York University, published in PNAS. By Christopher A. Bail, Lisa P. Argyle, Taylor W. Brown, John P. Bumpus, Haohan Chen, M. B. Fallin Hunzaker, Jaemin Lee, Marcus Mann, Friedolin Merhout, and Alexander Volfovsky.
A common criticism of social media platforms is they encourage like-minded people to form social networks that limit their exposure to different points of view and sources of information. There’s a growing concern that these so-called “echo chambers” are fueling political polarization in the U.S.
This study, however, demonstrates the opposite is true — at least for Republicans on Twitter. Researchers find that Republicans become more conservative when their Twitter feeds fill with messages reflecting opposing political ideologies.
For this study, researchers asked regular Twitter users who identified as Republicans or Democrats to follow a Twitter account that retweeted 24 messages each day for a month. Some people were unknowingly assigned to Twitter accounts that retweeted messages from elected officials, opinion leaders and others promoting opposing views.
Scholars discovered that Republicans’ attitudes grew more conservative after following a Twitter account that retweeted liberal messages. Democrats who followed an account that shared conservative messages became slightly more liberal, although that change was not statistically significant.
“Our study indicates that attempts to introduce people to a broad range of opposing political views on a social media site such as Twitter might not only be ineffective but counterproductive — particularly if such interventions are initiated by liberals,” the authors write.
“Twitter’s influence on news judgment: An experiment among journalists”: From the University of Utah and Temple University, published in Journalism. From Shannon C. McGregor and Logan Molyneux.
This study also looks at how Twitter messages affect behavior — namely, news judgment. The key takeaway: Inexperienced journalists and journalists who routinely use Twitter at work considered anonymous, context-free tweets to be as newsworthy as headlines from the Associated Press.
In March 2016, 212 U.S. journalists were asked to rate the newsworthiness of two sets of information. Some were shown two sets of headlines derived from headlines on the AP newswire. Other journalists were presented with a set of anonymous tweets as well as headlines that appeared to be from AP. Journalists rated items in terms of their newsworthiness and importance and how strongly they possessed news values such as timeliness and impact. Each journalist’s ratings were combined into a composite “newsworthiness” score.
The authors analyzed journalists’ responses, taking into consideration their Twitter usage. Journalists characterized as “high-frequency users” reported being on Twitter several times a day or connected all day while “low-frequency users” said they use it less often....