Study of the Day: Confirmation Bias Shapes How We Read Online

Information overload and our preconceptions influence the way we process comments on the Internet, according to new research from KAIST.

main ra2 studio shutterstock_69109528.jpg

PROBLEM: No one is completely objective when they process information, especially on the Internet. But what accounts for our tendency to gravitate toward comments that confirm our preconceptions?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by KAIST Graduate School of Management's Yeosun Yoon conducted four computer-based U.S. surveys to understand how we deal with information online. In one trial where a new mp3 player from a fictitious brand was the subject of discussion, 87 participants weighed in with their thoughts on the product as the scientists manipulated their mindset and the nature and volume of the other reviews they saw.

RESULTS: When the respondents felt overwhelmed by consumer feedback, they tended to rely on reviews that matched their induced mindset for their own evaluations. That is, if they were manipulated into a promotion orientation or made to feel hopeful, they became biased toward comments that discussed the absence or presence of positive features. When fewer remarks were provided and information load was low, however, they were able to take into account views that went against their mindset.

Interestingly, the authors found in another trial that brand names affect consumers' outlooks as well. Favorable brands, such as Sony, activated a promotion state, while less-favorable brands triggered a prevention approach, or a bias for opinions that discussed negative outcomes.

CONCLUSION: Consumers' reactions to online reviews are influenced by their mindsets and the volume of information presented.

SOURCE: The full study, "Effect of Regulatory Focus on Selective Information Processing," is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In