Citizens' Expectations on Brexit Outcomes: 'Fact' Transmission and Persuasive Power in a Digital World
This project employs neuroscientific, psychological and behavioural insights to help us to understand what makes Brexit-related claims spread on digital platforms.
We use cutting edge scientific techniques in big data analysis this project offers new insights into how citizens' expectations on Brexit and its consequences are shaped in an increasingly digital world.
Methodological Challenges and Questions
The question of what constitutes a fact (or an alternative fact) has perhaps never been more salient in public debate. The thirst for 'facts' during the Brexit referendum campaign was a key feature of public debate as was the question of whose facts count. The role of experts in the delivery of factual information came under close scrutiny and became a substantive feature of campaign dialogues. The question of trust and authority in information transmission has been under serious challenge. Citizens' expectations of Brexit and its consequences are, at least in part, shaped by their evaluation of the facts - but how do they decide what is a trustworthy fact? What factors lead them to imbue some sources of information with greater authority than others and under what circumstances do they choose to engage with, share or champion certain 'facts'? How does the context in which 'facts' are disseminated shape the expectations of the citizens on Brexit?
Digital technology and online communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, play an increasingly important role in the public communication of both information and misinformation. To date, however, we have little information on how 'facts' transmitted in these digital platforms are internalized by recipients and on how this information impacts on citizens' expectations. We investigate how membership of a specific social media bubble impacts on the evaluation of the information received; how the status of the sender or even the content of the communication (whether it contains an image or a web link) matters; and how the nature of the information received, confirmatory or challenging of previous knowledge, impacts on fact transmission to different publics.
This is a collaborative project which has brought together tools and techniques from Neuroscience, Politics, Informatics and Psychology. Specific tools include Python programming to gather, store an analyse data from the Twitter API, behavioural experimentation, facial emotion coding, fMRI analysis and psychological testing.