Sunday, August 9, 2020

Evidence of a tendency to perceive bodies in static poses as more feminine and bodies in dynamic poses as more masculine; & male bodies were judged more dynamic than female bodies with the same pose

Motion and Gender-Typing Features Interact in the Perception of Human Bodies. Giulia D’Argenio, Alessandra Finisguerra and Cosimo Urgesi. Front. Neurosci., April 21 2020. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2020.00277

Abstract: The human body conveys socially relevant information, including a person’s gender. Several studies have shown that both shape and motion inform gender judgments of bodies. However, while body shape seems to influence more the judgment of female bodies, body motion seems to play a major role in the judgments of male bodies. Yet, the interdependence of morphologic and dynamic cues in shaping gender judgment and attractiveness evaluation in body perception is still unclear. In two experiments, we investigated how variations of implied motion and shape interact in perceptual and affective judgments of female and male bodies. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to provide ratings for masculinity and femininity of virtual renderings of human bodies with variable gender-typing features and implied motion. We found evidence of a tendency to perceive bodies in static poses as more feminine and bodies in dynamic poses as more masculine. In Experiment 2, participants rated the same pictures for dynamism and pleasantness. We found that male bodies were judged more dynamic than female bodies with the same pose. Also, female bodies were liked more in static than in dynamic poses. A mediation analysis allowed us to further shed light on the relationship between gender-typing features and motion, suggesting that the less is the movement conveyed by a female body, the greater is an observer’s sensitivity to its femininity, and this leads to a more positive evaluation of its pleasantness. Our findings hint to an association between stillness and femininity in body perception, which can stem from either the evolutionary meaning of sexual selection and/or the influence of cultural norms.

General Discussion

The present study aimed to investigate how the manipulation of gender-specific morphological features and implied motion of a body interact in its judgments. To this end, we asked participants to rate the masculinity and femininity (Experiment 1) or the dynamism and pleasantness (Experiment 2) of a series of pictures depicting male and female bodies expressing different amounts of gender-typing features (60% vs. 90% typicality) and displayed in static or dynamic postures. As expected, participants assigned higher value of masculinity and femininity to more gender-typical male and female bodies, respectively. However, the most interesting finding was that also implied motion influenced the gender judgment of body figures, at least when they were displayed with less gender-typing features (i.e., 60% typicality). Indeed, participants tended to perceive low-typical female bodies as more feminine when displayed in static than dynamic poses and to perceive low-typical male bodies as more masculine in dynamic than static poses. Crucially, however, not only implied motion influenced the perception of the gender-typing features of a body figure, but also gender typicality influenced the perception of motion conveyed by a body posture. Indeed, we found that models with typical female-typing features were evaluated as less dynamic than models with typical male-typing features, even when they displayed the same pose. This pattern of results suggests that gender-typing morphological cues and implied motion interact in shaping the perception of body gender. When morphological cues are not clear, the perception of static or dynamic postures pushes gender perception toward a female or male body, respectively. In a similar vein, when the motion conveyed by a body is fuzzy (e.g., implied motion in body pictures), the perception of female- or male-typing features pushes motion perception toward stillness or dynamism, respectively.
Importantly, we also found, at both subject- and item-level analyses, that the association between stillness and femininity influenced the aesthetic appreciation of a body. Indeed, bodies with more gender-typing features (i.e., 90% typicality) were liked more than less-typical bodies (60% typicality). This is in line with the notion that the stereotypical representation of the body according to its gender has implications for its aesthetic appreciation (McCreary et al., 2005), reflecting a correlation between gender-typing features and the impression of a good-looking body (Johnstone, 1994Grammer et al., 2003Singh and Singh, 2011). However, we also found that, within female figures, the models in static poses were evaluated as more pleasant than those in dynamic poses. This may seem in contrast with studies showing that more dynamic dance poses are liked more (Calvo-Merino et al., 2008Cross and Ticini, 2012Kirsch et al., 2016) and that implied motion enhances the aesthetic appreciation of human bodies (Cazzato et al., 2012), in terms of either attribution of intrinsic perceptual properties to the stimulus (i.e., beauty) or observer’s attitude to it (i.e., liking or attractiveness). However, albeit gender-typical features were less salient in these previous studies as compared to our study, implied motion was found to be a better predictor of the aesthetic appreciation of male than female bodies (Cazzato et al., 2012). In addition, the different impact of static and dynamic stimuli in the judgment of female physical attractiveness has already been reported in adult actresses, showing that more feminine WHRs and larger breasts are considered desirable traits in static photographs whereas more androgynous body shapes are considered appropriate in stars that perform in movies (Voracek and Fisher, 2006). Here we found that static postures increased the aesthetic appreciation of female bodies. This effect could be due to a direct negative effect of implied motion on the appreciation of female attractiveness or be indirectly mediated by a masking of female-typical physical traits. However, the item mediation analysis allowed us to better delineate the relationship between femininity perception, stillness and aesthetic appreciation. In particular, we tested two models, based on the hypothesis that either stillness increased the perceived femininity of a female body and thus increased its pleasantness (Model A) or that femininity reduced the implied motion of a female body and thus reduced its pleasantness (Model B). The results provided evidence in favor of the first model, since perception of femininity was a key mediator of the negative relation between implied motion and liking. In other words, the effect of implied motion on the liking judgments of female bodies was better explained by an indirect effect mediated by femininity than by a direct effect of implied motion on liking. This supports the claim that stillness increased the aesthetic appreciation of a female body at least partially because it increased its gender typicality, likely facilitating the perception of feminine-typing features. In sum, our data suggest that femininity and stillness, on one hand, and masculinity and dynamism, on the other hand, are associated features in body representation, confirming clues from both sexual-selection and socio-cultural frameworks.
In a sexual-selection evolutionist framework, perceiving a static female body vs. a dynamic male body may boost the salience of gender-typing physical traits, such as WHR for women and muscularity for men. Numerous studies, indeed, have shown that a female body is strongly defined by the WHR, since it appears to be related to objective gender-specific qualities such as the levels of sex hormones (e.g., estradiol; De Ridder et al., 1990Mondrag√≥n-Ceballos et al., 2015), the accessibility to fat resources suitable for fetal neurodevelopment (Lassek and Gaulin, 2008), and the more general capacity to sustain pregnancy (Singh, 1993). Obviously, WHR might only serve as a proxy for covariating bodily traits that shape the entire body phenotype and co-determine the judgment of body attractiveness (Brooks et al., 2015). Certainly, being able to select these qualities on the basis of visual cues increases the reproductive success of the species and, in this respect, the body shape of a woman could be considered as the best way to rapidly infer her femininity, meant as a set of biologically determined attributes. Since WHR is based on the computation of the waist and hip proportions, it is plausible that movements may affect its estimation altering shape and size perception. A body in motion, indeed, can provide misleading information about shape, for instance by producing overlaps of body parts (i.e., arms that cover hips while running). As shown in a recent eye-tracking study (Pazhoohi et al., 2020), WHR is widely view-dependent and movement pattern can cause variation in WHR detection, even if body proportions remain constant. On this view, dynamism may hinder the expression of the femininity of a woman by obscuring her salient shapes as compared to when staying in canonical static poses.
Conversely, as in many animal species, humans show sex differences in body composition and the amount of muscle mass appears to be greater in men than in women (Wells, 2007). Performing actions may accentuate the perception of body muscularity, thus biasing gender perception toward masculinity. Furthermore, male individuals seem to tend to disclose their masculinity right through movements (Darwin, 1871), as demonstrated by males of some species which use dance as a signal of neuromuscular condition (Maynard Smith, 1956) or flight ability (Williams, 2001). In humans, for example, it has been shown that men’s bodily symmetry, a measure that reflects the developmental stability of an organism (Moller and Swaddle, 1997Polak, 2003) and preservation from morbidity and mortality (Stevenson, 2000), strongly correlates with their dance ability (Brown et al., 2005) and running performance (Manning and Pickup, 1998). This suggests that movements, rather than shape, may be a better predictor of men’s functional effectiveness.
As a legacy of sexual selection, the stereotypical association between femininity/stillness and masculinity/dynamism is reflected in socio-cultural norms, grounded on how people think men and women should differ. A domain in which this distinction is quite tangible is represented by sports context. Indeed, studies have suggested that, in most of Western countries, girls and women are less encouraged to participate in sports than boys and men (Eccles and Harold, 1991Hartmann-Tews and Pfister, 2003) and, even in physical activities where women are predominant, such as performing arts (i.e., ballet), performance seems to be judged more on the basis of aesthetic features than body capability (Klomsten et al., 2005). Nevertheless, media images in sports endorses the stereotyped view of men’s and women’s bodies, emphasizing strength and physical abilities in the case of male athletes but featuring female performers in terms of a sexualized body (Von Der Lippe, 2002). This is in line with the present finding that perception of femininity appears to be intensified by a static body pose. In this regard, studies about “woman objectification,” which refers to the tendency to perceive a woman worth in light of her body appearance and sexual function, have demonstrated that the identification of the female body as an object available for satisfying the needs of men may diminish her attribution of agency (Cikara et al., 2011) and, consequently, underline her passive condition. Interestingly, recent researches have shown that images of female bodies are processed as a recollection of body parts rather than a whole figure (Bernard et al., 20122015), a fragmentary process that is generally observed in the recognition of objects; notably, this pattern of visual perception occurs independently from the gender of the observer, demonstrating that such objectification of the female body involves women themselves. Thus, the well-proved association between femininity and object-related features could easily explain why static postures make bodies to appear more feminine. At the same time, men are encouraged to display their sex-typing features in keeping with contemporary masculine norms, which consider increased muscle mass as more masculine (Mishkind et al., 1986McCreary et al., 2005). This may explain why men tend to express their gendered body through exercising and practicing physical activity. Accordingly, a study aimed at exploring the association between levels of exercise and patterns of masculinity in men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy has recently revealed that men who are aerobically active have higher levels of self-reported masculinity than those who are inactive (Langelier et al., 2018), highlighting the intersection of masculinity and physical activity. Further, women also seem to judge masculinity through body movements, since they assess a man’s physical strength and attractiveness on the basis of his gait (Fink et al., 2016).
The conclusions that can be drawn from this study need to be weighted in the light of important limitations. First of all, we investigated the effects of dynamic cues in body perception by using static pictures of bodies with implied motion. This allowed controlling for the amount of body views offered in videos of a moving or still person, but obviously limits the salience and naturalness of body movements. Nevertheless, there is evidence for common neurocognitive representation of actual and implied body movements (Urgesi et al., 2006Cazzato et al., 20142016). Furthermore, the limited sample size prevented us from examining differences between male and female observers and to generally explore the role of individual differences in body-related processes on the association between stillness, femininity, and aesthetic appreciation of bodies. However, in keeping with previous findings (Bernard et al., 20122015), our analyses showed overlapping pattern of results in male and female participants, at least in Experiment 1 where the effects of implied motion on masculinity/femininity perception were explored. Further studies with larger sample are required to appropriately test for gender effects in body perception. Furthermore, we found overlapping results not only when data were treated at the subject level, thus aiming at generalizing at wider population of male and female observers, but also at the item level, thus aiming at generalizing the results at a wider population of male and female bodies. The use of only a limited number of variations in gender typicality (i.e., 60% vs. 90%) prevents us from describing the effect of implied motion on female and male bodies along the continuous nature of gender typicality. Future studies, thus, need to test a larger sample and use different types of stimuli (e.g., videos of real rather than computer-generated bodies in movements) with greater variations of gender typicality and greater ecological validity in order to shed light on whether the association between stillness and femininity concerns mostly perceptive mechanisms or the stereotypical meaning assigned to men and women.

The US has now an active force structure of just 39 maneuver brigades (Army and Marines); only about 13 are combat ready; to add more brigades would require cannibalization of about 25% of the remaining 26 active units

Israel Versus Anyone: A Military Net Assessment of the Middle East. Kenneth S. Brower. The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 178, Aug 2020. https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/178web.pdf


Most Israelis and Americans view the US as the ultimate guarantor
of Israeli security. They assume that in a dire emergency, US
conventional military forces would be able to rescue Israel before it
faced total defeat. They also believe that US training and military
equipment is absolutely vital to Israeli military power.
These widely held assumptions are divorced from reality. The simple
and unarguable truth is that for decades the US military has lacked the
ability to quickly project conventional ground and air forces into the
Middle East that would be able to successfully defend Israel. This has
been true for about 50 years.5

The US Army and US Marine Corps combined now have an active
force structure of just 39 maneuver brigades, of which only about 13
are combat ready. It would require many weeks to bring a portion of
the remaining 26 active maneuver brigades to combat ready status.
Achieving this would require cannibalization of about 25% of the
remaining active units in order to bring the others to full strength.
US reserve National Guard maneuver brigades would each require
about five months for mobilization, retraining, and deployment.
These National Guard reserve units are thus irrelevant to any Israeli
rescue scenario.6

The ability of the US military to deploy forces over long distances has
declined in the last 30 years because of a lack of investment in large
specialized roll-on roll-off ships. Many of the existing US reserve
merchant marine ships dedicated to military use are overage and have
been poorly maintained. Based on the deployment times achieved
during Operation Desert Storm, it is estimated that within about three
weeks the US could project two light infantry paratroop brigades
into Israel by air, plus one Marine infantry brigade transferred by
forward deployed USN amphibious ships and pre-loaded forward-based maritime ships.

Given about nine weeks, the US would likely
be able to field nine maneuver brigades in the Middle East consisting
of three paratroop, three Marine, and three heavy armored brigades.
Consequently, it would require about nine weeks for the US military to
generate roughly 15% of the IDF’s ground force mobilizable order of
battle. These US forces would only deploy about 10% of the number
of armored fighting vehicles the IDF can field.7

The USAF has a very limited number of combat aircraft currently
deployed in Europe. With air-to-air refueling, it is estimated that
these aircraft might be able to sustain the generation of about 90
sorties a day in support of Israel. But these few sorties, which only
represent 5% of Israeli wartime capability, could only be generated
if the host country where these aircraft are based were to allow them
to be operated in support of Israel. In the past, this approval has not
always been provided. Neither the USN nor USMC currently have
any operational combat aircraft based on aircraft carriers or large
amphibious ships that are normally deployed in the Mediterranean
within range of Israel.8

If numerous European airfields were to be made available for use
by the USAF, with appropriate host nation approval, it is estimated
that within 30 days the US could likely shift about 15 additional
fast jet squadrons into Europe. This would potentially raise the
number of daily USAF fast jet sorties generatable to about 450 per
day. However, projecting aircraft over great distances onto existing
airfields sounds far simpler than it is. Maintaining these aircraft
requires extensive specialized ground support equipment. Generating
sorties also requires vast quantities of fuel, munitions and spare parts.
The personnel that command, fly, maintain, and support these aircraft
all require housing and security. Unless European military airfields
are almost totally pre-prepared and fully stocked with ground support
equipment and consumables, which they generally are not, it requires
substantial sealift to transfer everything but the aircraft and personnel
overseas—and sealift takes time.

It should be noted that the generation of 450 daily long-range combat
sorties would also require the forward basing of at least 72 to 96
additional USAF aerial tankers in Europe. Without the provision of
additional forward-based air-to-air refueling tankers, European-based
USAF aircraft would be largely useless in support of Israel.
The USN could likely deploy two carrier battle groups in the
Mediterranean within 30 days. Each USN carrier currently carries
only 44 F-18 combat aircraft. Many of these have to be dedicated to
the generation of defensive combat air patrols and/or buddy air-toair tanking.
Depending on the selected stand off distance from shore,
each carrier can only generate 25 to 50 offensive fast jet sorties per
day. The USMC would likely be able to shift one air wing forward,
including up to 30 F-35B or AV-8B VSTOL aircraft operating from
two or three LHDs/LHAs. These vulnerable unarmored ships would
have to operate far offshore. The sea-based Marine VSTOL aircraft,
which have very limited range, would, therefore, likely generate a
very low daily sortie rate. Conventional Marine F-18 combat aircraft
would, like all USAF aircraft, have to be based at European airfields.
Marine fast jet aircraft would likely generate a daily sortie rate similar
to European-based USAF aircraft and would require additional aerial
tanker support.

To summarize: Given 30 days to mobilize and deploy, and being
provided with access to about 12 large European military air bases,
all with the host nations’ approval for use in support of Israel, and the
deployment of a large number of USN aircraft carriers and amphibious
ships, the three combined US military air forces could only sustain the
generation of about one-third the number of daily combat sorties that
can be generated by the IAF on day one.

Why is welfare provision unpopular in China?

Why is welfare provision unpopular in China? Alex C. H. Chang. Democratization, Jul 22 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2020.1789966

ABSTRACT: This article analyses from a cultural perspective why, despite exacerbating income inequality, Chinese people are not in favour of income equality. I argue that the patriotic education campaign initiated in the 1990s encouraged citizens to sacrifice for the greater good of China and caused the Chinese to accept and adapt to a decrease in governmental welfare as well as lessening the demand for it, thus reducing the government’s financial burden of welfare provision. I then test the hypothesis against the Asian Barometer Survey data. The statistical results support my assertion, suggesting that strong patriotic beliefs reduce the preference for social equality, and that private income and economic perspectives do not significantly stimulate the public demand for redistributive policies in China.

KEYWORDS: inequality, preference for redistribution, China, self-sacrifice for national interest, patriotic indoctrination


In the literature on redistributive policies, Meltzer and Richard have famously argued
that people with lower incomes prefer higher income taxes because they have more
to gain and less to lose from government spending on social welfare than persons
with higher incomes.1 Accordingly, their model suggests that redistributive policies
“lean against the wind”2 – that is the more people’s wages fall below the mean
income, the greater their support for government redistributive policies will be.

Practices, however, call into question the validity of Meltzer and Rickard’s theoretical
assumptions. Lindert’s so-called “Robin Hood Paradox”3 shows that increasing income
inequality is actually associated with less rather than more welfare spending.4 Moreover,
individual-level studies have also pointed out that the poor do not necessarily support
high levels of redistribution, nor that the rich consistently disapprove of them.5 The
most straightforward evidence comes from the United States, where inequality is significantly
increasing but welfare policies remain unpopular.6


Conclusion

Conventional wisdom suggests that the less wealthy should favour welfare policies.
However, empirical findings show that the reasons behind individual preferences for
redistributive policies are more complicated than are commonly thought. By reviewing
competing explanations based on neoclassic economic and culturalist approaches, this
article sets out to investigate why welfare provision is not popular among the Chinese in
spite of a growing income gap. In addition to considering individual demographic and
socioeconomic attributes, as well as their subjective perceptions of social status, I have
shown that attitudes towards welfare policies are not influenced by respondents’ selfinterest,
but by their willingness to self-sacrifice for the greater good of China.
Ceteris paribus, the more Chinese agree to set aside their own interests for the sake
of the national interest, the more they are averse to government welfare. Moreover,
the statistics further show that such a patriotic effect on the preferences for welfare provision
is not applicable to young adults born after the institution of the one-child policy.

The findings above have at least three applications. First of all, they shed some light
on issues that are likely to be crucial for the political acceptability of welfare reform programs
and the redistributive theory inspired by the Meltzer-Richard model. Second,
these findings help us with re-examining the developmental trajectory of China as
well as providing suggestions for the increasing attempts at adopting the China
model as a developmental strategy. The prevalence of Chinese collectivist traditions
enables the CCP to simultaneously manipulate both public policies and the society.
From the perspective of government, the patriotic education campaign not only
evoked public support for marketization reforms and self-sacrifice for the modernization
of China from the supply side, but from the demand side it also inspired
Chinese citizens to restrain their demands for redistribution and thus justified the
low government provision of welfare service. In other words, through the manipulation
of traditional Confucian and Maoist ideals, the CCP government successfully inspired
the alleviation of social discontent attributed to increasing economic inequality and
kept the train towards China’s modernization on track without expanding its government
spending on welfare provision.

While the rise of China has gained global attention and the China Model is increasingly
adopted in developing countries, highlighting China’s liberal economic policy and
one-party political system,63 this article reminds us of the importance of cultural and
patriotic forces mediating between government policy and society. The patriotic tradition
in China, as suggested above, provides a cushion for civil grievances against
central planning, avoids potential conflicts between society and government, and
reduces the extent to which the central government utilizes authority to enforce its policies.
This leads me to conclude that without taking cultural differences into account,
the China model might not be successfully replicated in other developing countries.

Last, but not the least, the analysis of Chinese unexpected low support for welfare provision
in spite of the high income inequality reminds us to review the literature of distributive
politics in authoritarian regimes. According to the redistributive theory of
democratization, inequality-induced redistributive conflicts inevitably lead to either
democratization or repression, the two unfavourable outcomes of the CCP. If an autocratic
government can soothe public discontent towards inequality without rendering
welfare service, apparently there is no need to risk its legitimacy to democratize or to
repress. The findings above demonstrate that China has skilfully managed patriotic
campaign and promoted people’s national identity to curtail their demands for welfare
services. This thus avoids China from inequality-induced redistributive conflicts and
subsequent top-down democratization or bottom-up public turmoil. Having said that,
I do not mean to deny the possibility of democratization or even regime change in
China. As shown in the previous discussion, young Chinese have become more pragmatic
and self-interested than the older adults. While they comply with the patriotic indoctrination
and demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice their own interests to the greater
national interests, they have ensured that nationalist beliefs would not conflict with
their demands for government welfare services. In other words, as income inequality
increases along with internationalization and globalization in China, we would expect
growing demands for welfare services to knock the door of democratization in China.


Contrafreeloading is the willingness of animals to work for food when equivalent food is freely available; seen in laboratory animals (pigeons, rats) & captive wild (bears) & domestic animals (cows, pigs); no sign of contrafreeloading among domestic cats

Contrafreeloading behavior of cats and its relation to activity. Brandon Han, Mikel Delgado, Melissa Bain. 2020 Animal Behavior Society's Virtual Conference, Jul 2020. https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/virtual/?page=presentation&session_id=4&presentation_id=47&displayday=&pagefrom=program

Abstract: Contrafreeloading is the willingness of animals to work for food when equivalent food is freely available. This behavior is observed in laboratory animals (pigeons, rats) and captive wild (bears) and domestic animals (cows, pigs). However, a previous study of six laboratory cats did not find evidence of contrafreeloading. We hypothesized that cats in a home environment may contrafreeload and that more active cats would be more likely to contrafreeload. We tested 18 house cats for contrafreeloading by comparing feeding choices in the presence of both a food puzzle and a tray of the same size and shape across 10 trials. All enrolled cats wore an activity tracker. Cats consumed more food from the tray than the puzzle (p< 0.05). A binominal test indicated most cats preferred to eat from the tray first and spent more time eating from the tray compared to the puzzle. Our results indicate there is no sign of contrafreeloading among domestic cats.  There was no relationship between activity as recorded by the tracker and tendencies to interact with the puzzle. Further research is required to understand why among tested animals, only cats seem to not express contrafreeloading behavior.


Facts and Myths about Misperceptions

Facts and Myths about Misperceptions. Brendan Nyhan. Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 34, Number 3—Summer 2020—Pages 220–236. https://doi.org/10.1257/jep.34.3.220

In politics, the sources of—and belief in—dubious claims that meet this standard often divide along partisan lines. On the issue of health care, for instance, Politifact selected Palin’s “death panel” claim as the “Lie of the Year” in 2009 and Barack Obama’s oft-repeated claim that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” under the Affordable Care Act as the “Lie of the Year” in 2013...

Conclusion
Many responses to the problem of misinformation unfortunately threaten to
undermine or limit free speech in democratic societies. For example, critics have
called on Facebook to ban ads from political candidates that are deemed false, which
would introduce a centralized constraint on a core form of political speech that is
absent in other media like television. Since 2016, a number of countries around the
world have gone even further in using fines or even criminal penalties to try to limit
misinformation. For example, Kenya enacted legislation making the publication of
false information a crime, a step that the Committee to Project Journalists said will
criminalize free speech (Malalo and Mohammed 2018).

Calls for such draconian interventions are commonly fueled by a moral panic
over claims that “fake news” has created a supposedly “post-truth” era. These claims
falsely suggest an earlier fictitious golden age in which political debate was based on
facts and truth. In reality, false information, misperceptions, and conspiracy theories
are general features of human society. For instance, belief that John F. Kennedy was
killed in a conspiracy were already widespread by the late 1960s and 1970s (Bowman
and Rugg 2013). Hofstadter (1964) goes further, showing that a “paranoid style” of
conspiratorial thinking recurs in American political culture going back to the country’s founding. Moreover, exposure to the sorts of untrustworthy websites that are
often called “fake news” was actually quite limited for most Americans during the
2016 campaign—far less than media accounts suggest (Guess, Nyhan, and Reifler
2020). In general, no systematic evidence exists to demonstrate that the prevalence
of misperceptions today (while worrisome) is worse than in the past.

Even exposure to the ill-defined term “fake news” and claims about its
prevalence can be harmful. In an experimental study among respondents from
Mechanical Turk, Van Duyn, and Collier (2019) find that when people are exposed
to tweets containing the term “fake news,” they become less able to discern real
from fraudulent news stories. Similarly, Clayton et al. (2019) find that participants
from Mechanical Turk who are exposed to a general warning about the prevalence
of misleading information on social media then tend to rate headlines from both
legitimate and untrustworthy news sources as less accurate, suggesting that the
warning causes an indiscriminate form of skepticism.
Any evidence-based response to the problem of misperceptions must thus
begin with an effort to counter misinformation about the problem itself. Only then
can we design interventions that are proportional to the severity of the problem and
consistent with the values of a democratic society.