The Third-person Perception in Post-truth Era: what is Chinese elderly adults’ perspective of misinformation sharing behavior in WeChat?


With the development of digital media, Chinese elderly adults are becoming an active cohort of digital media users. Since digital media not only facilitated people’s life but also facilitated the spread of misinformation, here comes the question, what is Chinese elderly adults’ perspective of misinformation sharing behavior in WeChat?

In the context of the post-truth era, this study aims to investigate the third-person perception of misinformation sharing behavior in WeChat (a Chinese social media) from the perspective of Chinese elderly adults. The strength of the third-person perception, factors of fact-checking habits, trust degrees, verification ability, and gender are investigated in this research.

Based on a survey on Chinese elderly adults (N=317) in urban China, results confirmed the exists of third-person perception of misinformation sharing behavior in WeChat. Furthermore, findings also indicate that this effect tends to be stronger on people with better fact-checking habits, higher misinformation verification ability, and lower trust degrees on the information in WeChat. There is no clear relationship between self-reported misinformation verification ability and the strength of the third-person perception effect. In addition, the role of gender in TPP and misinformation verification ability has been investigated in this study. Results show that there are no significant gender differences in the presumed frequency of sharing rumors from peers, but female’s self-reported frequency of sharing information without verification is significantly higher than that of males. Furthermore, when compared objective misinformation verification ability, men's objective misinformation verification ability is observed higher than that of women.

In general, this study provides many unique investigations for researches on the third-person perception. Firstly, this research expanded the third-person perception into the Chinese context and Chinese social media. Secondly, instead of investigations on the effect of news, advertisements or political issues, this study has made a connection of the third-person perception and the critical awareness. Thirdly, this research is trying to fill the gap that attention has been little paid but should be paid to the cohort of elderly adults.