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Folk theories of false information: A mixed-methods study in the context of Covid-19 in Turkey

Suncem Koçer, Bahadır Öz, Gülten Okçuoğlu, Fezal Tapramaz - December 23, 2022
New Media & Society


This study explores how media users define false information in the daily flow of their lives against a backdrop of sociopolitical contexts. We focus on the vernacular definitions of false information through the concept of folk theories, which are the intuitive explanatory tools users develop to make sense of and act in the world around them. Based on mixed-method research conducted in Turkey during the Covid-19 pandemic, we identify three prevailing folk theories of false information. First, users consider text-based characteristics, such as the presence of evidence as a flag of accuracy/inaccuracy. Second, users assume that people in their social networks distinguish between the accurate and the inaccurate, and thus the information coming from these circles is accurate. Finally, users imagine that people whose worldviews conflict with theirs spread inaccurate information. Despite users’ overarching references to textual traits of news, it appears that the latter two folk theories drive users’ information processing practices in daily life.

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