Reading about science in the era of “fake news”: how the requester, the task, attitudes towards and knowledge about science influence reading decisions and outcomes

Duration: 01.07.2019 - 30.09.2021

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under grant number SCHO 1606/4-1

Scientific results are easily available through mass media and the internet. Recent developments like „alternative facts“ and „fake news“, however, are an example of the fact that at least a certain percentage of the public considers the established media to be untrustworthy and/or do not value the scientific approach and scientific results when reaching important personal or political decisions. In the present project, this topic is addressed from a reading research perspective through the examination of university students. Scientific results on the same topic are often available across multiple documents. University students encounter these not only in the personal context, but also in the academic context. Reading multiple documents necessitates, amongst other tasks, the comparison of statements, making judgements regarding the trustworthiness of sources, and creating an adequate representation of content and its sources. Based on the recently proposed RESOLV model, the present project poses the question of whether the context in which the students read influences their reading decisions and outcome. Since in different contexts it is often not only the requester who varies, but also the task, in the present project the influence of the requester, the task, attitudes towards science, and knowledge about the scientific approach will be researched. Since the assessment of attitudes towards science, especially in the case of university students, might evoke biased self-report measures due to social desirability or self-deception, not only explicit but also implicit measures will be used. Study 1 focuses on the relationships of explicit and implicit attitudes towards science and knowledge about the scientific approach. In Study 2, the context effects by task, requester, and ‑ as moderators ‑ attitudes towards science and knowledge about the scientific approach will be researched. It is expected that the results will contribute to both the understanding of current phenomena as well as to theory advancement.

Principal Investigator:

PD Dr. Cornelia Schoor