Online Fake News about Food: Self-Evaluation, Social Influence, and the Stages of Change Moderation

a cura di Greta Castellini, Mariarosaria Savarese, Guendalina Graffigna



In the Italian context, the diffusion of online fake news about food is becoming increasingly fast-paced and widespread, making it more difficult for the public to recognize reliable information. Moreover, this phenomenon is deteriorating the relation with public institutions and industries. The purpose of this article is to provide a more advanced understanding of the individual psychological factors and the social influence that contributes to the belief in food-related online fake news and the aspects that can increase or mitigate this risk. Data were collected with a self-report questionnaire between February and March 2019. We obtained 1004 valid questionnaires filled out by a representative sample of Italian population, extracted by stratified sampling. We used structural equation modelling and the multi-group analyses to test our hypothesis. The results show that self-evaluation negatively affects the social-influence, which in turn positively affects the belief in online fake news. Moreover, this latter relationship is moderated by the readiness to change. Our results suggest that individual psychological characteristics and social influence are important in explaining the belief in online fake news in the food sector; however, a pivotal role is played by the motivation of lifestyle change. This should be considered to engage people in clear and effective communication.

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