Epistemic Overconfidence in Algorithmic News Selection

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The process of news consumption has undergone great changes over the past decade: Information is now available in an ever-increasing amount from a plethora of sources. Recent work suggests that most people would favor algorithmic solutions over human editors. This stands in contrast to public and scholarly debate about the pitfalls of algorithmic news selection—i.e., the so-called “filter bubbles.” This study therefore investigates reasons and motivations which might lead people to prefer algorithmic gatekeepers over human ones. We expect that people have more algorithmic appreciation when consuming news to pass time, entertain oneself, or out of escapism than when using news to keep up-to-date with politics (H1). Secondly, we hypothesize the extent to which people are confident in their own cognitive abilities to moderate that relationship: When people are overconfident in their own capabilities to estimate the relevance of information, they are more likely to have higher levels of algorithmic appreciation, due to the third person effect (H2). For testing those two pre-registered hypotheses, we conducted an online survey with a sample of 268 US participants and replicated our study using a sample of 384 Dutch participants. The results show that the first hypothesis cannot be supported by our data. However, a positive interaction between overconfidence and algorithmic appreciation for the gratification of surveillance (i.e., gaining information about the world, society, and politics) was found in both samples. Thereby, our study contributes to our understanding of the underlying reasons people have for choosing different forms of gatekeeping when selecting news.

In Media and Communication
Felicia Loecherbach
Felicia Loecherbach
Assistant Professor Political Communication and Journalism

My research interests include understanding news consumption online making use of theories from political communication and journalism. I use computational methods to study digital trace data. Only publishing research and tools open source.