The age of misinformation: how does exposure to new information affect previously held beliefs?
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At every turning point in our daily lives, we are exposed to information in the hopes of persuasion and changing our minds. But, what if none of this new information is actually doing anything to convince us? Political scientists have long been obsessed with this age-old question of what impact information exposure has on people, with the aim of determining how it can influence a democracy. Much of the current work, however, is either outdated or addresses too many factors at once. This piece, specifically, is aimed at examining the effects of social media on information exposure. When you interact with a post on Facebook that you either agree or disagree with, under what circumstances does that information actually impact your beliefs? Does it merely reinforce what you already believe or does it actively change what your opinion is? So, this thesis examines specifically what effect social media in particular has on the observational mind. The hope in examining this field is clarifying whether outreach across social media and educational information actually makes a difference in changing people’s mindsets and, in turn, their voting behavior. How can we expect to “win” people over to our sides, if the information that we are presenting them is meaningless?