I'm wondering why many people just read headlines when they scroll through social media and make up their minds based on this? What bias or heuristic is at play? Why don't people read the article?

I have considered availability bias because people will use the information that is available to them but that doesn't seem to capture the whole phenomenon. Why don't people click on the article to read it and assume they know the whole story based on the few words contained in the headline?

  • $\begingroup$ laziness:) Not being interested enough to put in real effort. $\endgroup$ – Retardi Grade Jun 24 '20 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ Or having a strong opinion on the subject matter and only being interested in distributing your version, so taking cues from titles and launching into preaching your version $\endgroup$ – Retardi Grade Jun 24 '20 at 12:54

If the headline confirms a strongly held prior belief, or is antithetical to prior beliefs, then no need to read.

Consider an article titled, 'the world is round' ... no need to read it as I already believe that.

An alternate title 'the world is flat' ... no need to read that either.

An article 'the world is changing' may pique my interest and cause me to read further.

I wonder whether any heuristic or bias is at play, or whether an evaluation mechanism that judges the perceived benefit of reading the article versus the time opportunity cost of engaging with it.

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    $\begingroup$ This is called selective exposure: "Selective exposure is a theory within the practice of psychology, often used in media and communication research, that historically refers to individuals' tendency to favor information which reinforces their pre-existing views while avoiding contradictory information." $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jun 27 '20 at 17:54

I think that the conjunction fallacy might play a role in these instances. The fallacy assumes, according to Tversky & Kahneman (1983), that we tend to try to build a more plausible reason in our minds and thus string together the information with what is easier to believe. With an abundance of information, it is easier for people to piece stories together that support what they have already been exposed to, and thus tend not to extend their reasoning past this point, representativeness is at work, as well.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1983). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychological Review, 90(4), 293

  • $\begingroup$ Downvoting: I don't see any reference to our tendency to piece together stories in connection with the conjunction fallacy, neither in Wikipedia, nor in the paper cited. The conjuction fallacy deals with conjunctions (statements that have the word "and" in them). $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jun 27 '20 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ I was paraphrasing the article. The main point is that there is a tendency to choose information intuitively, often based on representativeness, rather than by considering the actual probability, i.e., looking at other sources or seeking confirmation. I could have worded it better, I guess. Another explanation for the phenomena could maybe be explained by the serial-position effect. $\endgroup$ – Psychm Jun 27 '20 at 23:09

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