Dannagal Goldthwaite YoungNov 6, 2023
How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation
Johns Hopkins University Press 2023
Over the past 40 years, lawmakers in America's two major political parties have taken increasingly extreme positions on ideological issues. Voters from the two parties have become increasingly distinct and hostile to one another along the lines of race, religion, geography, and culture. In Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation (Johns Hopkins UP, 2023), Dr. Dannagal Goldthwaite Young illustrates how political leaders and media organizations capitalize on social and cultural identities to separate, enrage, and mobilize people. Because humans are motivated to comprehend, to feel in control, and to be part of a community, they seek information that satisfies these needs – including misinformation that favors their political team. They don’t want to be wrong.
Bringing together tools from political science, communications, and social psychology, Dr. Goldthwaite Young creates a model to explain how public officials, journalists, and social media platforms encourage what she calls identity distillation. Dr. Young both describes the dynamics and provides suggestions for how to disrupt “identity-driven wrongness.” These include journalists abandoning conflict framing in the coverage of politics, social media platforms increasing transparency about their algorithmic content rankings and ad targeting, and individuals cultivating intellectual humility and disrupting performances of political identity to increase the demand for democracy-centered political information.
Dr. Dannagal Goldthwaite Young is a professor of Communications and Political Science at the University of Delaware. Her areas of expertise include political media effects, media psychology, public opinion, and the psychology of misinformation. I’m delighted to welcome her to the New Books Network.
George Lobis served as the editorial assistant for this podcast.
Susan Liebell is a Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.