Introduction: Online eye-tracking has been used in this study to assess the impacts of different cultural backgrounds on information discernment. An online platform called RealEye allowed participants to engage in the eye-tracking study from their personal computer webcams, allowing for higher ecological validity and a closer replication of social media interaction.
Methods: The study consisted of two parts with a total of five visuals of social media posts mimicking news posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Participants were asked to view examples of real and fake news taken from a news fact-checking website, Snopes, and their eye movements were recorded during the process. Participants were recruited through Prolific and SONA; the total sample size for study 1.1 was 29 participants, and the total for study 1.2 was 25 participants, after removing poor eye-tracking data. A total of five visual images comprising true and false news were shown to the participant, study 1.1 had three examples and study 1.2 had two examples. There were two main cultural backgrounds in focus: participants born in China or the United Kingdom.
Results: Results suggested that participants follow a similar visual pattern of attention to Areas of Interest (AOIs) on the posts, which leads us to believe that due to the global standardisation of popular social media platforms, a bias might have occurred during information discernment.
Discussion: It is suggested that regardless of country background, users may have similar eye-tracking results while viewing a social media post because social media platform formats are standardised globally. Further research would recommend looking at language and linguistic traits when seeking differences between country backgrounds during online information discernment.