A study suggests that people tend to focus on expressing themselves more than engaging with others. That means when a person can like, upvote, or downvote an article, and they tend to spend less time reading the text.

Based on a lab experiment, the researchers found that people spend about 7% less time reading an article about controversial topics when they can click the "like" button. It is even strongest when the report agreed with their point of view.

According to lead author Daniel Sude, the results of the study suggests that people's ability to interact with online content changes based on how they consume it.

Expressing Over Engaging

People express them when they are liking or disliking an online article. In that sense, people tend to express their thoughts more than engaging in the article's content, Sude said.

It is the epitome of the old saying: "If you're talking, you're not listening." Voting to like or dislike an article talks back to it without listening to what the article had to say.

Moreover, the current views of people on controversial topics such as abortion or gun control become stronger after liking articles that are similar to their opinions even when they only read a little of the article's content.

Study co-author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick said that having the option to like an article that people agree on amplifies their attitude. They need not read the full article carefully and learn something new as long as they are committed to their beliefs.

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and will appear in its print edition in 2021.

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Voting on Controversial Topics

The researchers included 235 college students for their experiment, in which they measured first each participants' views on four controversial topics: abortion, affirmative action, gun control, and welfare benefits.

They were presented with four versions of an online news article for each one of the controversial topics. Participants can see the headlines and first paragraph of the articles on the website; two of these four articles have a conservative slant while the remaining two with a liberal slant. They could also choose to read the full story or not.

The two websites of the articles have a banner that said, "Voting currently enabled for this topic," with each article having an arrow up and down that participants could click to express their opinion. Meanwhile, the two other websites had a banner that said, "Voting currently disabled for this topic."

Secretly, the participants only have three minutes each article to browse. Then the researchers measured the time each participant spent o each story and whether they clicked the arrows if they had the chance.

They found out that participants spent more time reading articles that are similar to their views compared to those opposing ones. They also spent 12 seconds lesser on articles they have a chance to vote and voted on 12 percent of the articles they did not select to read.

The researchers measured the views of the participants again after the experiment. They discovered that their views strengthened on topics that are similar to their opinions and when they are unable to vote. But when they can vote, their voting behavior was as influential as the time they spent reading, and if they stopped reading, they still have stronger feelings.

Sude said people should read the full article and leave thoughtful comments instead of just hitting the like button. In that way, they can express themselves and influence the way they think about the topic.

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