Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation

Johns Hopkins Univ. Oct. 2023. 312p. ISBN 9781421447759. $29.95. POL SCI
Young (communication and political science, Univ. of Delaware; Irony and Outrage) explores why people believe misinformation. She argues that people’s social identities are shaped by their need to comprehend events, feel a sense of control over their lives, and belong to a community. Misinformation can appeal to all three aspects, which makes it enticing to certain populations. In its opening section the book takes a psychological approach to examine why fake news is believable and which kinds of people are more prone to trust and embrace it. It also explores the effects of political polarization and partisanship on voters’ mindsets, which affects the types of deceptive statements that appeal to them. The second half of the book analyzes the traditional and current social media landscape in the United States to show how the platforms encourage partisanship and the spread of lies. Incorporating examples related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election and the COVID pandemic, Young distills academic perspectives and analyses for a general audience and offers recommendations to combat the spread of false information.
VERDICT A compelling exploration of the psychological factors behind misinformation and belief.
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