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Ukrainians with Strong Analytical Reasoning Skills Are Better Insulated against Russian Propaganda, Study Finds

February 7th, 2022 15:37

The MIT Sloan School of Man­age­ment is report­ing on a new large-scale study on Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion in the Ukraine which exam­ined whether some peo­ple can bet­ter iden­ti­fy Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion than oth­ers. The study found that peo­ple with stronger ana­lyt­ic rea­son­ing skills are bet­ter at iden­ti­fy­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion. Accord­ing to the report titled “Does  Ana­lyt­ic Think­ing Insu­late Against Pro-Krem­lin Dis­in­for­ma­tion? Evi­dence from Ukraine”:

Feb­ru­ary 1, 2022 As ten­sions increase between Rus­sia and Ukraine, signs of this esca­la­tion are most­ly plain to see, such as more than 100,000 Russ­ian troops gath­er­ing along the Ukrain­ian bor­der and both coun­tries engag­ing in train­ing exer­cis­es and appeal­ing to allies. Yet the large amount of online pro­pa­gan­da and dis­in­for­ma­tion flow­ing into Ukraine is less vis­i­ble. Near­ly 40% of Russia’s dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns tar­get Ukraine, accord­ing to a watch­dog orga­ni­za­tion affil­i­at­ed with the Euro­pean Union. How do Ukraini­ans respond to pro-Krem­lin false­hoods? Are some peo­ple bet­ter able to iden­ti­fy dis­in­for­ma­tion than oth­ers?  A new work­ing paper by Aaron Erlich of McGill Uni­ver­si­ty, Calvin Gar­ner of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, Gor­don Pen­ny­cook of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na, and MIT Sloan pro­fes­sor finds that Ukraini­ans with more ana­lyt­i­cal rea­son­ing skills tend to be bet­ter insu­lat­ed against Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da — even if they gen­er­al­ly have pro-Rus­sia sym­pa­thies. The out­comes pro­vide insight about how to iden­ti­fy groups that are vul­ner­a­ble to false news and, poten­tial­ly, craft inter­ven­tions that help peo­ple detect disinformation.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that as part of a larg­er study, the researchers inter­viewed near­ly 11,500 Ukraini­ans online, and par­tic­i­pants were asked to assess the accu­ra­cy of 16 news sto­ries. Some of the sto­ries were false (with pro-Krem­lin slant), and oth­ers objec­tive­ly true, across a range of sub­jects — from pol­i­tics and the econ­o­my to the mil­i­tary and culture.

Access the full study here.