Combating Problematic Information Online with Dual Process Cognitive Affordances

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Virginia Tech


Dual process theories of mind have been developed over the last decades to posit that humans use heuristics or mental shortcuts (automatic) and analytical (reflective) reasoning while consuming information. Can such theories be used to support users' information consumption in the presence of problematic content in online spaces? To answer, I merge these theories with the idea of affordances from HCI to into the concept of dual process cognitive affordances, consisting of automatic affordance and reflective affordance. Using this concept, I built and tested a set of systems to address two categories of online problematic content: misinformation and filter bubbles. In the first system, NudgeCred, I use cognitive heuristics from the MAIN model to design automatic affordances for better credibility assessment of news tweets from mainstream and misinformative sources. In TransparencyCue, I show the promise of value-centered automatic affordance design inside news articles differentiating content quality. To encourage information consumption outside their ideological filter bubble, in NewsComp, I use comparative annotation to design reflective affordances that enable active engagement with stories from opposing-leaning sources. In OtherTube, I use parasocial interaction, that is, experiencing information feed through the eyes of someone else, to design a reflective affordance that enables recognition of filter bubbles in their YouTube recommendation feeds. Each system shows various degrees of success and outlines considerations in cognitive affordances design. Overall, this thesis showcases the utility of design strategies centered on dual process information cognition model of human mind to combat problematic information space.



automatic affordance, reflective affordance, design, information consumption, misinformation, filter bubble