Political Facebook Posts Don't Change Minds, Study Says

Getty Images
Getty Images

Been posting political rants all over Facebook this election season? They may not be doing much good, according to a recent study. WIRED reports that the social media marketing firm Rantic decided to research the way Facebook users react to the political messages their friends post, and the results were less than encouraging.

Rantic polled 10,000 Facebook users and found that, by and large, political posts were extremely unlikely to change anyone's views. However, they were likely to annoy people and even inspire them to unfriend posters.

Rantic found that 94 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of Independents said they'd never changed their view of an issue based on a Facebook post. About two-thirds of the study's participants also said that social media was not an appropriate place to discuss politics, while around half said they judged others based on their political opinions. A smaller, though not insignificant, number (12 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of Democrats, and 9 percent of Independents) said they’d unfriended someone because of a political post.

But that doesn't stop Facebook users from posting political messages of their own: Rantic also found that while the vast majority of Facebook users said they’ve remained steadfast in their political views after reading conflicting opinions on Facebook, 39 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of Democrats, and 26 percent of Independents had still posted political messages on their own Facebook pages.

[h/t WIRED]

Some Scientists Suggest Chronic Anxiety Is a Learning Disorder

iStock.com/SIphotography
iStock.com/SIphotography

People with anxiety see the world a little differently, and some scientists have suggested that they learn differently, too. As Daniel Barron argues in Scientific American, recent research has raised an intriguing possibility: that chronic anxiety could be a learning disorder.

As evidence, he points to a 2015 paper that was penned by psychiatrist Michael Browning, of the University of Oxford, and several of his colleagues. Browning wanted to study how people learn—which historically has been pretty hard to do—so he designed an experiment that would test participants' learning rates in stable versus "volatile" situations. The idea that anxiety could be a learning impairment is a novel idea (though past studies have shown that people with certain learning disabilities are more susceptible to mental illness). There isn't much data to back it up just yet, but the theory could guide future research pertaining to anxiety and learning. "There's a lot of promise," Browning told Scientific American. "What there isn't is a lot of data."

Nonetheless, the results are worth noting. Titled "Anxious individuals have difficulty learning the causal statistics of aversive environments," the paper—published in the journal Nature Neuroscience—details the findings of an experiment that was adapted from a previous learning test. In the newer experiment, 31 subjects were asked to choose between different shaped patches. For each "incorrect" object chosen, the test subject received a "moderately painful" electric zap. In the first block of the experiment, the outcome was stable, meaning that one of two patches delivered a shock with a probability of 75 percent. The second leg of the experiment was more unpredictable, and the shape that had previously delivered the most shocks "reversed on five occasions."

"The difference in participants' learning rate between the stable and volatile task blocks provided a measure of participants' ability to adapt their learning to changes in environmental volatility," researchers write. "To perform the task optimally, participants had to integrate the information about shock magnitude and shock probability, the latter needing to be inferred from the outcome of previous trials."

Researchers discovered that non-anxious people were able to adapt their strategy when the game got more volatile, while anxious people who tested higher on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory showed a "deficit" in adjusting and responding to the changes.

As Scientific American notes, this study needs to be expanded and replicated before we draw any definitive conclusions about the ways in which people with anxiety learn.

[h/t Scientific American]

Star Wars Fans Digitally Inserted Harrison Ford Into Solo: A Star Wars Story

Jonathan Olley, Lucasfilm Ltd
Jonathan Olley, Lucasfilm Ltd

While hardcore fans thoroughly enjoyed ​Solo: a Star Wars Story for its dedication to the series's internal lore, wider audiences felt indifferent toward the film. It was a much-needed reminder that while nerd culture has effectively become mainstream, it is not so encompassing that audiences will accept any offering from a well-known sci-fi franchise.

For most people, Han Solo is cool because Harrison Ford had an effortless charm that made him instantly iconic. While actor ​Alden Ehrenreich did an admirable job in Solo, bringing the space smuggler to life, he was no Ford. Fortunately, technology might have the answer to tweaking the film.

Derpfakes is a YouTube channel that uses AI to digitally transpose new features over existing performances. In this instance, they used footage of a ​young Harrison Ford from his early films American Graffiti and The Conversation to eerily bring his presence to Solo. The composing software doesn't quite clear the uncanny valley, but the end result is impressive nonetheless.

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