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Tufts University creates a computer model that explains how the spread of misinformation works

James Tuliano

Tufts University, the Massachusetts private research college, created a computer model that shows exactly how misinformation spreads.

The researchers state that our pre-existing beliefs heavily influence whether or not we will accept new information, regardless of its accuracy. The model shows how ideas are spread throughout different networks and explains why certain people are more accepting of incorrect information.

The model contains a system where it assigns individuals a number between 0-6 depending on how strongly they hold onto a certain belief. As an example, if the topic was about the COVID-19 vaccine, somebody that is assigned a 0 would believe that it is useless or dangerous, while somebody that is assigned a 6 would consider the vaccine safe and effective.

If someone that is at a 6 in the point system receives information from an influential source (a peer, trusted news outlet, influencer, etc.) that is a 5, then they are likely to update their belief to a 5. Alternatively, the study explains that if that same person received information that is at a 2, they are likely to hold onto their 6 even more so than before.

Essentially, if you want someone to change their mind about a certain topic, you need to very slowly introduce the opposing viewpoint for that change to progress.

The model also explains that if the information comes from a source that the individual highly trusts or idolizes, such as a close friend or an influencer, they are more likely to dramatically change their opinion on a topic (and increase/decrease their number score) than if they heard it from another source.

You can read the research article in its entirety here.

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James Tuliano is an independent journalist from Cary, North Carolina. Tuliano is interested in covering the community, business, scams, and current events.

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