Study: Bad News Becomes Hysteria In Crowds

Bad news gets worse when it’s spread among the masses, finds a new study. Researchers from the University of Warwick analyzed 154 participants on social media. They were split up into 14 chains of eight people, with the first person in each chain reading balanced, factual news articles, and writing a message to the next person about the story, the recipient writing a new message for the next person, and so on. In every chain, stories about sad or scary topics became increasingly more negative and biased toward fear as it was passed down the chain. But the most important find was that this effect was not changed even when the original, unbiased facts were reintroduced. Study leader, professor Thomas Hills says, “Society is an amplifier for risk. This research explains why our world looks increasingly threatening despite consistent reductions in real-world threats. It also shows that the more people share information, the further that information gets from the facts and the more resilient it becomes to correction.”