Epistemic Overconfidence in Algorithmic News Selection

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Epistemic Overconfidence in Algorithmic News Selection

  • Mariken van der Velden Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Felicia Loecherbach Department of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Abstract:  The process of news consumption has undergone great changes over the past decade: Information is now available in an ever-increasing amount from a plethora of sources. Recent work suggests that most people would favor algorithmic solutions over human editors. This stands in contrast to public and scholarly debate about the pitfalls of algorithmic news selection—i.e., the so-called “filter bubbles.” This study therefore investigates reasons and motivations which might lead people to prefer algorithmic gatekeepers over human ones. We expect that people have more algorithmic appreciation when consuming news to pass time, entertain oneself, or out of escapism than when using news to keep up-to-date with politics (H1). Secondly, we hypothesize the extent to which people are confident in their own cognitive abilities to moderate that relationship: When people are overconfident in their own capabilities to estimate the relevance of information, they are more likely to have higher levels of algorithmic appreciation, due to the third person effect (H2). For testing those two pre-registered hypotheses, we conducted an online survey with a sample of 268 US participants and replicated our study using a sample of 384 Dutch participants. The results show that the first hypothesis cannot be supported by our data. However, a positive interaction between overconfidence and algorithmic appreciation for the gratification of surveillance (i.e., gaining information about the world, society, and politics) was found in both samples. Thereby, our study contributes to our understanding of the underlying reasons people have for choosing different forms of gatekeeping when selecting news.

Keywords:  algorithmic appreciation; algorithmic gatekeepers; algorithmic news selection; third person effect; uses and gratifications

Published:   18 November 2021

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i4.4167

© Mariken van der Velden, Felicia Loecherbach. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.