Synthesis produced by the Fondation Descartes of the following research paper:
Mosleh, M., Pennycook, G., Arechar, A. A., & Rand, D. G. (2021). “Cognitive Reflection Correlates With Behavior On Twitter.” Nature Communications, 12(1), 1-10.
Through a series of experimental studies, G. Pennycook and D. G. Rand have shown that individuals who are able to suppress their intuitions when judging the reliability of a piece of information, and who instead engage in more “analytical” thinking (requiring more time and attention, more information here) appear to be more skeptical of fake news and are less inclined to disseminate it online.
This present study builds upon this research and demonstrates that, beyond their relationship to fake news, “analytical” and “intuitive” individuals exhibit different behaviors on Twitter.
The authors of the study monitored the Twitter behavior of 1,901 participants, all of whom had completed a survey intended to classify their way of thinking as either intuitive or analytical. They found that, on Twitter, “analytical” individuals follow fewer accounts that “intuitive” individuals. The authors interpret this result as an indication that the former are more discerning when it comes to information: following fewer accounts limits their exposure to information but gives them more control over the information that they are exposed to. The identity of the accounts followed also varies according to individuals’ way of thinking, which would make it possible to distinguish two “communities” on Twitter: the network of accounts followed by more “analytical” individuals, and the network followed by more “intuitive” individuals. The authors describe this phenomenon as the manifestation of a “cognitive echo chamber.” “Analytical” individuals are more likely than “intuitive” individuals to discuss politics and to follow and share information published by reliable media outlets (as assessed by fact-checking organizations). The authors conclude by highlighting the importance of reinforcing individuals’ capacity to think in an analytical way. Indeed, analytical reasoning allows individuals to better evaluate the quality of a media outlet and contributes to improving the quality of the information circulating online.