Online platforms’ data give advertisers the ability to “microtarget” recipients’ personal vulnerabilities by tailoring different messages for the same thing, such as a product or political candidate. One possible response is to raise awareness for and resilience against such manipulative strategies through psychological inoculation. Two online experiments (total N=828) demonstrated that a short, simple intervention prompting participants to reflect on an attribute of their own personality—by completing a short personality questionnaire—boosted their ability to accurately identify ads that were targeted at them by up to 26 percentage points. Accuracy increased even without personalized feedback, but merely providing a description of the targeted personality dimension did not improve accuracy. We argue that such a “boosting approach,” which here aims to improve people’s competence to detect manipulative strategies themselves, should be part of a policy mix aiming to increase platforms’ transparency and user autonomy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
(grant “Reclaiming individual autonomy and democratic discourse online: How to rebalance human and algorithmic decision making” to the authors R.H., S.L., and S.M.H.; Project description: https://sks.to/rao and http:// portal.volkswagenstiftung.de/search/projectDetails.do?ref=98515). M.G. is a fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE), Berlin. S.L. was supported by a Humboldt Award from the Humboldt Foundation in Germany during part of this work. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
© 2021, The Author(s).
- Cognitive Science
- human behaviour