Expressions of doubt in online news discussions

Anthony M. Evans*, Olga Stavrova, Hannes Rosenbusch, Mark J. Brandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Online discussions about politics and current events play a growing role in public life, and they can foster positive outcomes (e.g., civic engagement and political participation) and negative outcomes (e.g., hostility and polarization). The present research examines how the use of doubtful (vs. confident) language influences behavior in online discussions of current events. We examine the effects of doubtful language on comment popularity (i.e., recommendations from other users) and the use of emotional language in subsequent replies. We examine data from 1.9 million user comments from the New York Times website. Comments containing doubtful language were less popular, receiving fewer user recommendations. Additionally, replies to doubtful comments were less emotional (containing fewer positive emotions and fewer negative emotions). These results suggest that although doubtful authors are less likely to be recommended by other users, they may play an important role in helping to foster civility in online discussions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Computer Review
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • doubt
  • confidence
  • emotions
  • politics
  • news discussions
  • SOCIAL-INFLUENCE
  • DECISION TIME
  • CONFIDENCE
  • CERTAINTY
  • JUDGMENT
  • INFORMATION
  • CALIBRATION
  • CIVILITY
  • TWITTER
  • WORDS

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