“Liking” an article online may mean less time spent reading it
A study from Ohio State University finds that when users have an option to click “like” on the media article online, they spend less times reading the texts. The study notes the concern: citizens cocoon themselves into niches of attitude-consistent messages due to easier selectivity online.
In this lab-based study finds that people spent about 7% less time reading articles on controversial topics when they could up-vote or down-vote them, than when there was no interactive element.
Participants demonstrated a confirmation bias. They spent about 1.5 minutes on an article that agreed with views. On the contrary, they spent less than a minute on an article that disagrees with their opinion. But they spent about 12 seconds less time reading the articles they agreed with if they could vote.
The trend was strongest when an article agreed with the reader’s point of view, especially on controversial topics like gun control and abortion.
When such option of like and vote was absent, participants reinforced their attitudes by spending time reading the arguments and evidence contained in attitude consistent messages. When the option of like and vote was present, participants opted for self-expression over spending time reading attitude-consistent messages.
The study concludes that at least for highly controversial issues, the option of like and vote shift focusses away from the other-as-source and towards the self as source. It also concludes that that other forms of engagement like comments or encouraging users to provide more thoughtful commentary addressing the specific content of messages provided by the system can improve readership.
The study was completed by 235 students at a large Midwestern university who ranged from 18 to 45 years old. Participants were then shown four versions of an online news website created for the study on each of the controversial topics. Some articles had the up and down arrow buttons, while others did not.
This was published as a study titled ‘Computers in Human Behaviour.