A new journal article suggests that blog comments and Google autocomplete are changing the way the public consumes scientific news. Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote in Science (paywall) about recent studies that suggest Google’s autocomplete feature steers the general public into clicking on scientific data that confirms their previous biases. In addition, Schefele and Brossard claim that positive or negative blog comments can strongly affect how an ordinary reader interprets online science stories.
A similar argument was made by researcher Eli Pariser, who claims the web merely reenforces readers’ pre-existing political beliefs in a sort of echo chamber.
In a recent academic study written about by Brossard and Scheufele, comment threads on blogs were found to alter readers’ views of scientific discoveries. Using a sample blog post on nanotechnology, it was found that strongly worded blog comments could sway people to be either pro- or anti-nanotechnology research if polled shortly after reading the post.
[Image: Library of Congress]