Why critical thinking is not the answer to misinformation
02-11, 12:15–12:25 (UTC), Track 2 - Foxhunter

Incorrectly assessing digital information has many repercussions for users: from downloading malicious code in open-source software repositories, to becoming a victim of misinformation. Study 1 was a systematic review (N = 63 studies) of the digital symbols and signals that communicate trust when assessing digital information. The results suggested trust signals and symbols were grouped into three themes of social proof, verification to reduce variance of risk, and expectancy violation theory. Study 2 (N = 20 participants) was a thematic analysis exploring whether expertise influences the use of trust signals and symbols in open-source software libraries. Results indicated that differences exist between expert and lay users when utilising trust cues to assess digital information. The implications for these studies are that ways in which people use trust cues create vulnerabilities for malicious actors to exploit through a range of possibilities. Researching which digital trust signals and symbols are utilised by users (when assessing the trustworthiness of digital information) may help to inform how to mitigate said vulnerabilities.

This presentation focuses on how the interaction of the digital environment and a user’s psychology may lead to incorrectly evaluating the trustworthiness of online information. The two studies aim to demonstrate how asking users to critically think when assessing digital information overlooks how the digital environment may increase psychological biases to distort our ability to successfully evaluate the trustworthiness of digital information. The first study reviews the current evidence for digital trust cues that increase a user’s perception of trustworthy information. The second study focuses on how trust cues are used to make judgements over the trustworthiness of information within open-source software libraries.

Rob is a final year PhD student in psychology at the university of Bath. He is part of the centre for doctoral training in trust, identity, security, and privacy in large scale infrastructures (a collaboration between the universities of Bath and Bristol). His research focuses on gaining further understanding of how trust is exploited online (including open-source software attacks, mis/disinformation, and how to increase trust in honeypots).