Overcoming polarization with chatbot news? Investigating the impact of news content containing opposing views on agreement and credibility

Abstract

Chatbots are a burgeoning opportunity for news media outlets to disseminate their content in a conversational way, and create an engaging experience around it. Since chatbots are social and interactive technologies, they might be effective tools to lower the threshold of engaging with news content containing opposing views. In an experiment, we test this idea by investigating whether people are more likely to accept a news article containing conflicting views when it is delivered by a chatbot, as compared with the same article on a news website. The results indicated that people agreed more to a counter-attitudinal news article when it was delivered by a news chatbot (compared with the website article). In addition, users also perceived this chatbot article as more credible. The underlying process for this effect was that people attributed human-like characteristics to the chatbot on an implicit level (i.e., perceived mindless anthropomorphism). These results are discussed in the light of their potential contribution to an informed public discourse and a decrease in polarization in our society.