Emotional misinformation spreading

Apeksha Shetty, Jula Lühring, David Garcia, Annie Waldherr & Hannah Metzler
Complexity Science Hub Vienna & University of Vienna
Slides: hannahmetzler.eu/emomis_update_2024


The Project


  • Emotions attract attention & increase sharing
  • Beliefs are shaped by our social identity
  • Group & emotion dynamics are central on social media
  • Existing interventions focus on accuracy

Research questions

Observational social media analyses of emotional dynamics around news

Emotion regulation interventions

Agent-based modelling: network & algorithms

Results & Highlights (Part I)

Do fake news elicit emotions?

  • COVID-19 news headlines
  • Austria 2021
  • Mood & response
  • Response:
    • More anger
    • Less joy

Do emotions increase susceptibility?

  • Higher anger in people good & bad at recognizing false news
  • Angry responses because most people recognize false news
  • Emotions arise when information contradicts existing beliefs

Theory: Change of problem understanding

  • Emotions are functional
  • Humans are not gullible: motivated belief vs. manipulation
  • Misinformation as symptom of real-world societal problems
  • Motivated partisan minority shares misinformation
  • Majority: uninformed, little news interest & silent

\(\rightarrow\) Questioning the role of emotions
\(\rightarrow\) Our solution: Targeting social dynamics & open-mindedness

Results & Highlights (Part II)

Measuring misinformation: NewsGuard

Expert ratings of news sources on 9 journalistic quality criteria

  • Trustworthiness score per source
  • In-depth analysis
  • Increasing inclusion of low-trustworthy news
  • Includes German sources since 2019

Emotions around news on Twitter

Discussion threads below tweets linking to news sources

  • German speaking
  • Emotions:
    Machine Learning

Emotions depend on news trustworthiness

Low-trustworthy news: more anger & less joy (preliminary!)

Social identity intervention

  • Goal: Increasing skepticism
  • How: Beliefs incongruent with social identity
  • Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) vs. right-wing extremism
  • Intervention shows link with
    • historical information
    • news articles

Intervention effect on trust & sympathy

Highlighting inconsistency of beliefs with social identity reduces trust & sympathy in alternative medicine.

Algorithm effects on news trustworthiness

Agent-based model of US politicians’ retweeting behavior

Other highlights

  • 3 supervised internships + 2 Master theses
  • Presentations at leading conferences: ICA Toronto 2023, MISDOOM Amsterdam 2023, SPSP 2022 (online), …
  • EMOMIS Video for the Digital Humanism series
  • Chapter in a public report on climate misinformation
  • Media mentions (APA, DerStandard, Kurier, Science.ORF, FM4 news, Woman Balance…)

Upcoming outreach highlights

  • Upcoming talks
    • klimaaktiv (Bundesministerium für Klimaschutz, May)
    • Volkshochschule (September)
  • Upcoming media highlights
    • ORF documentary
    • DERSTANDARD Podcast
    • Article in Spektrum der Wissenschaften

Thank you!


COVID-misinformation items

  • Actual true & false COVID-19 headlines
  • From fact-checking websites & mainstream news sources
  • Accuracy ratings