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From Facts to Fake News: How Information Gets Distorted

Knowledge@Wharton: “Remember the old childhood game of telephone? One kid whispers a phrase in another kid’s ear, and it gets passed along until the final child in the chain repeats it out loud. Inevitably, the words change along the way, subject to the cognitive interpretation of the listener. Retelling stories may be harmless amusement on the playground, but new research from Wharton sounds the alarm on the grown-up version by revealing how news can become more biased as it is repeated from person to person. As information travels farther away from its original source, retellers tend to select facts, offer their own interpretations, and lean toward the negative, according to the study titled The Dynamics of Distortion: How Successive Summarization Alters the Retelling of News. “This paper started because I was interested initially in understanding how we end up with fake news. But quickly I realized that this project was going to be about something much broader, and I think more interesting, which is how do original news stories become distorted as they’re retold sequentially across people,” Wharton marketing professor Shiri Melumad said in an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)…”

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