Professor, the University of Westminster

Tom Buchanan is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Westminster. With a background in personality and social psychology, he has been doing research at the interface of psychology and the internet since the late 1990s. Much of his work has focused on web-based psychological measurement and the validity of online research techniques.

Other work has involved applying these techniques to substantive real-world questions, including side effects of recreational drug use, online fraud, and psychological assessment.

His current research activities span a number of aspects of how people engage with technology. These include online self-presentation, use of online educational technologies, and interaction with ‘fake news’ in social media.

Personal webpage

Recent Publications

  • Buchanan, T. (2015). Aggressive priming online: Facebook adverts can prime aggressive cognitions. Computers in Human Behavior, 48(2015), 323-330. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.072
  • Marriott, T. C., & Buchanan, T. (2014). The true self online: Personality correlates of preference for self-expression online, and observer ratings of personality online and offline. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 171-177. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.11.014
  • Buchanan, T., & Whitty, M. T. (2014). The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood. Psychology, Crime and Law, 20(3), 261-283. doi:10.1080/1068316X.2013.772180
  • Whitty, M. T., & Buchanan, T. (2012). The Online Romance Scam: A serious cybercrime. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(3), 181-183. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0352.
  • Whitty, M. T., Buchanan, T., Joinson, A. N., & Meredith, A. (2012). Not all lies are spontaneous: An examination of deception across different modes of communication. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(1), 208-216.



Why do people spread false information online? The effects of message and viewer characteristics on self-reported likelihood of sharing social media disinformation

Individuals who encounter false information on social media may actively spread it further, by sharing or otherwise engaging with it. Much of the spread of disinformation can thus be attributed to human action. Four studies (total N = 2,634) explored the effect of message attributes (authoritativeness of source, consensus indicators), viewer characteristics (digital literacy, personality, and demographic variables) and their interaction (consistency between message and recipient beliefs) on self-reported likelihood of spreading examples of disinformation. Participants also reported whether they had shared real-world disinformation in the past. Reported likelihood of sharing was not influenced by authoritativeness of the source of the material, nor indicators of how many other people had previously engaged with it. Participants’ level of digital literacy had little effect on their responses. The people reporting the greatest likelihood of sharing disinformation were those who thought it likely to be true, or who had pre-existing attitudes consistent with it. They were likely to have previous familiarity with the materials. Across the four studies, personality (lower Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, higher Extraversion and Neuroticism) and demographic variables (male gender, lower age and lower education) were weakly and inconsistently associated with self-reported likelihood of sharing. These findings have implications for strategies more or less likely to work in countering disinformation in social media.

(From the journal abstract)

Buchanan, T. (2020). Why do people spread false information online? The effects of message and viewer characteristics on self-reported likelihood of sharing social media disinformation. PLOS ONE, 15(10), e0239666.

Author: Tom Buchanan

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