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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

the internet is serious business

Turns Out Rude Internet Comments Make Readers More Polarized. Act Surprised, Why Don’t You?

Or, at the very least, internet comments make us more polarized about scientific findings. According on an online (where else?) survey, readers who saw an article on a politically neutral scientific subject followed by a batch of rude comments were more likely to develop rigid ideas about the subject right there and then than folks who read the same article accompanied by comments that were politely disagreeing.

From LiveScience:

The researchers conducted an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,183 Americans. The participants read a neutral blog post from a Canadian newspaper that described risks and benefits of a particular use of nanotechnology, an interdisciplinary field of science dealing with things at the nanometer (one-billionth of a meter) scale. The researchers chose nanotechnology because it’s a topic on which most people haven’t formed political opinions.

Participants saw different versions of the story — the blog post itself was the same, but each version contained either civil or uncivil comments. For example, an uncivil comment might be, “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.” Civil comments made the same argument using polite language. After reading the blog post, the participants were asked to fill out a survey about the blog and comments, their views of the risks and benefits and other information.

Their results showed that the readers who saw rude comments with the posts came out of the experience significantly more polarized about the risks of nanotechnology than otherwise, although how religious the reader was and whether they had any previous knowledge or support for nanotechnology research could skew those results.

Now, the benefits of a civil commenter community are pretty well known and accepted, if only because moderators and blog runners alike prefer to keep their stress levels low. But this is a particular point of interest for scientific reporting. Note that the quality of the article or the clarity with which it presented its ideas was largely irrelevant here: the quality of the comments section had a measurable effect on the opinions of the reader. It would be interesting to see a study with some sort of control for the article, to see if a more or less stridently written piece would be able to match up to the opinion-causing power of its comments section.

With so much of today’s media open to comment sections, the idea that it’s not the quality of the way that you, the expert, reporter, or researcher present your facts but whether or not people in the comments are calling each other names that makes people form and hold their opinions is an unnerving one.

PS: All I ask is that if you get into an admittedly thematically appropriate fake argument in the comments on this post, you make it as clear as possible that it is a fake argument. My blood pressure thanks you in advance.

(via LiveScience.)

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  • Anonymous

    I can’t believe you admonished your LOYAL READERS about the content of our fake arguments. We can be the fakest most argumentative people ever! We are the fakest mean-interneters ever to internet. Everyone is SUCH an idiot!

    /You’re welcome Susana

  • Magic Xylophone

    Hah! What a crock!

  • Autumn Hittle

    How could you call everyone an idiot??!?!?1 That’s the sort of tripe spewed by NAZI’S, you moron! And you can thank NObama (!!!) for them having to tell everyone to STFU about something… because Communism. (And something about God or Jesus)

  • Anonymous

    radnom ad-hominem insult wit lots of misspelings and no caps and misuse of pucntuashun!1!!!1

    (That caused an almost physical pain to write, but seemed appropriate to this.)

  • Captain ZADL

    I oppose everything you stand for! Except for those things that I’ll re-word in a combative manner to make it seem like I’m opposing you even though I agree if you actually examine the things I said, which I won’t.

    My sources are unimpeachable, but yours are merely mouthpieces of a vast conglomeration of small minded fools.

  • Saga Silkesmo

    God, you idiots will do anything you’re told, won’t you? You just bend over and ask for more like good little sheeple! You’re told to make faux-aggressive comments dripping with forced sarcasm, and you do it without question like the unoriginal baboons that you are!

    … Wait a minute…

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    And then I attack your unimpeachable sources by telling you that I’m right, because the Bible says so.

  • electrasteph

    I tried to click through to find the original study, and the link here is not to it directly but to an article on live science. Although that article has many links, none are to the source study. Very frustrating.

  • Autumn Hittle

    Slippery-slope argument with hints of self-aggrandized statements! And a personal attack citing your appearance and your faith!

    (*snirks* Yeah… The misspellings were a wonderful touch. I winced in sympathy.)

  • electrasteph
  • electrasteph

    Dietram A. Scheufele has some other seriously brainy/interesting research as well, that you can find via Google’s scholarly papers search.

  • Captain ZADL

    I will now belittle your beliefs, because they do not rigidly conform to mine. I will find some small inconsistency, and rabidly apply it to all other parts.

  • Anonymous

    I will seize on one tiny portion of your post, deliberately misinterpret that and set up a straw-man which I will then proceed to beat up on, while ignoring approximately 97.3% of your argument.

  • Anonymous

    It’s time that someone had the courage to stand up and say, “I’m against those things everybody hates!”

    Now, I respect my opponent. He’s a good man, but frankly, I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING HE JUST SAID!

    I say your two cent titanium tax goes too far!

    And I say your two cent titanium tax doesn’t go too far enough!

  • Anonymous

    This is the best fake argument, ever.

  • Anonymous

    This is the best fake argument, ever.

  • Anonymous

    It is NOT, you big Dummie!

    Oh wait… <..>

    Nevermind. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Wait, so if someone anoynymosly is a jackass on the internet, other people will actually take the jackasses opinions as their own?

  • Dessa Brewington

    Fuck this bullshit. I’m going to Youtube. At least commenters are nice to me there…

  • Nicole Elizabeth Currie

    At which point I will get up on a soapbox, preach a bit while ingoring everything you’ve said, even if it’s actually something worth talking about. I will then end with a hopeful note that you can find the truth if you just open your heart (or some such phrase) and that I pity you.

  • Sophie