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article imageStudy: Most Reddit users vote on articles they haven't read

By James Walker     Dec 1, 2017 in Internet
Most Reddit users vote on submitted stories without first reading their content, according to a new study. While the results may not be surprising, they demonstrate that blind reliance on aggregation scores isn't a good way to find newsworthy content.
Headline browsing
Researchers at Notre Dame University detailed the behaviour of Reddit voters in a new paper published today. As Motherboard reports, it found 73 percent of all Reddit posts are voted on by users who have not read the content. In most cases, users simply upvote or downvote submissions as they scroll through subreddits, immediately moving onto the next item in the list.
The researchers said the discovery is important because it demonstrates that people consume digital media very differently to traditional news reporting. Amid a climate of fake news and misinformation, online discussion boards appear to be contributing to a culture where stories are elevated or suppressed based solely on their headlines.
Reddit and similar sites may be little more than "headline browsers", the study authors suggest. Users rapidly browse through tens or even hundreds of articles in subreddits of their own choosing. In many cases, they'll vote on stories based on the perception they create after a few seconds of headline exposure.
"Cognitive fatigue"
According to the researchers, the amount of information made available on sites such as Reddit makes it difficult for users to effectively process and sort new content. Because of the anonymity of the service, people are likely to express an opinion on submissions without having clicked the link or read the post. The study found signs of "cognitive fatigue" amongst the most regular Reddit voters.
"The sheer volume of new information being produced and consumed only increases the reliance that individuals place on the ability of anonymous others to curate and sort massive amounts of information," reads the paper's introduction. "Because of the economic and intrinsic value involved, it is important to understand how individuals consume anonymously curated information and contribute to the wisdom of the crowd."
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There are problems with the study as the data used was acquired from a very small sample size. Just 309 self-selected Redditors were involved, so the results could be different if conducted at a larger scale. The researchers explained that the opt-in sample was used because it provided more opportunities to question the participants. Each user voluntarily installed a browser plugin to monitor their Reddit usage and answered questions about their voting activity.
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