Johanna Kaakinen

Why misinformation is so hard to tackle? The role of affective responses in reading comprehension.

One of the major challenges in solving global problems such as climate change is that
people’s beliefs and attitudes are very hard to change. Unfortunately beliefs cannot be
changed simply by presenting and disseminating correct facts and information because
people have a tendency of protecting their prior beliefs. In order to understand how
misinformation can be tackled we need to know more about how prior beliefs and attitudes
influence the way people process written information.
 
One factor that may have a crucial role in how readers approach information is the affective
reaction induced by belief-inconsistent text information. However, there is very little, if any,
previous research on how emotional reactions are reflected in actual reading behavior. The
purpose of the proposed research is to examine how affective reactions influence the way
readers approach, inspect and comprehend text information. It is assumed that affective
reactions are related to narrowing and broadening of cognitive scope during the course of
reading, which will be studied in three empirical studies. In these studies, concurrent
recordings of think-aloud protocols, eye movements, psychophysiological measures, and
motion capture data will be utilized. This is a completely novel and groundbreaking approach
for studying reading comprehension. The goal of the proposed research is to develop a
theoretical account of affective reactions in text comprehension.
 
The results will be significant from the theoretical point of view, as current theories of text
comprehension are not equipped to account for the effects of affective reactions in text
comprehension. The results will also be of great practical importance because they will help
in designing effective interventions and guidelines for how information on publicly
controversial topics should be distributed.
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