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The paradox of virality

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Yara Kyrychenko.

I will present the results from a variety of interconnected studies about intergroup conflict, the spread of (mis)information, and how these topics interact with digital technologies such as social media. First, I will present research showing how social identity motives — particularly out-group negativity — explain why content is widely shared (or goes “viral”) on social media. Then, I will present research showing that widely shared content is often not widely liked — a phenomenon I call the “paradox of virality.” I will discuss the results of a study showing how accuracy and social identity motivations causally shape the belief and spread of (mis)information. I will also present the results of a large-scale digital field experiment that tests the long-term effects of exposure to misinformation and divisive content by having participants unfollow several polarizing social media accounts and misinformation sources for one month. Finally, I will present current and future research directions demonstrating how we can explore these questions on a global scale using multi-site “global studies” and how we can enhance our methods for testing these questions using large-language models.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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