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Sun Jan 13, 2013, 05:42 AM

 

The effect of internet trolls on public understanding of science

In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science. Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a $91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were "civil"—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: "If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot."

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn't a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.

In the context of the psychological theory of motivated reasoning, this makes a great deal of sense...the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the "rational" thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one's emotions, the "thinking" process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one's identity and preexisting beliefs...

The upshot of this research? This is not your father's media environment any longer. In the golden oldie days of media, newspaper articles were consumed in the context of…other newspaper articles. But now, adds Scheufele, it's like "reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it..."

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/you-idiot-course-trolls-comments-make-you-believe-science-less

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Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply The effect of internet trolls on public understanding of science (Original post)
HiPointDem Jan 2013 OP
sibelian Jan 2013 #1
Beartracks Jan 2013 #2
UnrepentantLiberal Jan 2013 #3
2on2u Jan 2013 #4
Downwinder Jan 2013 #5
valerief Jan 2013 #7
ThoughtCriminal Jan 2013 #11
valerief Jan 2013 #6
Buzz Clik Jan 2013 #8
Scuba Jan 2013 #9
farminator3000 Jan 2013 #10

Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 05:46 AM

1. Yes, all thoughts begin with feelings.


I'd go so far as to say that thought IS feeling, just more rarified, codified, sculpted, balanced and posed to be "just so" as a result fo experience. If someone's emotional reactions to things are all screwy then 90% of the time they will dream up a rationalisation to make the emotional reaction seem reasonable.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 07:16 AM

2. "screaming in my ear what I should believe "

Hey, it's talk radio!

============

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 07:24 AM

3. I rarely read comments on articles

 

but you can sure see people's positions harden over contentious issues on this website.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 07:58 AM

4. I'm pretty sure the effects on the perceptions regarding nanotechnology will be very very very

 

small. n/t

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 08:30 AM

5. Should we let trolls survive

to make us stronger Democrats?

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Response to Downwinder (Reply #5)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 08:31 AM

7. I have Terminix to the house every quarter. Don't want the vermin taking over. nt

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Response to valerief (Reply #7)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 06:31 PM

11. Be sure they're using the right nanocide

Darn Grey Goo turned my garden into a Patriot Missile battery. Neighborhood reaction was mixed.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 08:30 AM

6. I don't think this will nanosurprise anyone. I prefer studies that

tell us something we don't know already.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 08:53 AM

8. Not just science...

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 10:09 AM

9. It's where people are conflicted that we have to make inroads. Take abortion ...

... even those who are anti-choice, believe women should not have to bear the child of their rapist. Yet the Dems have historically avoided this topic allowing the R's to shape the discussion.

I'm reading Drew Westen's "The Political Brain" which explores emotion, logic and language. Fascinating, I highly recommend it.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Jan 13, 2013, 11:36 AM

10. brought to you, once again, by the magic of big M!

genetically engineered a-holes!
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022179090#post8

***

I first came across online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek. They had launched ferocious attacks, across several internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen.

Rowell and Matthews found that one of the messages Mary Murphy had sent came from a domain owned by the Bivings Group, a PR company specializing in internet lobbying. An article on the Bivings website explained that “there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organization is directly involved … Message boards, chat rooms, and listservs are a great way to anonymously monitor what is being said. Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party."

The Bivings site also quoted a senior executive from the biotech corporation Monsanto, thanking the PR firm for its “outstanding work”. When a Bivings executive was challenged by Newsnight, he admitted that the “Mary Murphy” email was sent by someone “working for Bivings” or “clients using our services”. Rowell and Matthews then discovered that the IP address on Andura Smetacek’s messages was assigned to Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri(9). There’s a nice twist to this story. AstroTurf TM - real fake grass - was developed and patented by Monsanto.
http://www.alternet.org/story/149197/are_right-wing_libertarian_internet_trolls_getting_paid_to_dumb_down_online_conversations

***

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13281-idiot-america-how-stupidity-became-a-virtue-in-the-land-of-the-free

"We," announced Ham, "are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!" And everybody cheered.

This was a serious crowd. They gathered in the museum's auditorium and took copious notes while Ham described the great victory won not long before in Oklahoma, where city officials had announced a decision—which they would later reverse, alas—to put up a display based on Genesis at the city's zoo so as to eliminate the discrimination long inflicted upon sensitive Christians by the statue of the Hindu god Ganesh that decorated the elephant exhibit. They listened intently as Ham went on, drawing a straight line from Adam's fall to our godless public schools, from Charles Darwin to gay marriage. He talked about the great triumph of running Ganesh out of the elephant paddock and they all cheered again.



"A politically savvy challenge to evolution" makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy party ticket. It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe that they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly: none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got: he's not going to be able to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.

On the front page.

Of the New York Times.

Consider that the reporter, one Jodi Wilgoren, had to compose this sentence. Then she had to type it. Then, more than likely, several editors had to read it. Perhaps even a proofreader had to look it over after it had been placed on the page—the front page—of the Times. Did it occur to none of them that a "politically savvy challenge to evolution" is as self-evidently ridiculous as an "agriculturally savvy" challenge to Euclidean geometry would be? Within three days, there was a panel on the topic on Larry King Live, in which Larry asked the following question:

"All right, hold on, Dr. Forrest, your concept of how you can out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?"

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