News Overload and coping strategies: effect of false news during public health crisis


The dramatic advancement in communication technology continues the growth of news alternatives, creating an enormous amount of news sources that have paradoxically created a situation where accurate ‘news’ becomes hardly navigate. This analogy – news overload – poses a serious challenge in crisis-related contexts, in which people have trouble in selecting and evaluating relevant news with the swells of information, creating the potential for dysfunctional information processing (Eppler & Mengis, 2004; Perez, 2000). 

This study draws upon insights from the theoretical framework, limited capacity model of motivated mediated message processing (LC4MP, Lang, 2000), rationalizing the relationship among news consumption, false news experience and perceived news overload during a major public health crisis. According to this model, the human brain will be less optimized when the amount of information exceeds the human cognitive processing capacity. Specifically, during mass emergencies that it is infeasible for humans to effectively locate accurate news will seriously hamper information comprehension and integration. False information such as a fabricated story or unconfirmed statement
that circulates online can problematize public perceptions on health risks. This study investigates people’s news consumption during the COVID-19 epidemic in China to examine how false news influence the relationship between news consumption and perceived news overload.

In addition, this study also aims to explain how people employed the most effective way to deal with the challenge of news overload during a crisis. The study is currently under the data collection procedure. Once completed, the findings will indicate the possible presence of coping strategies such as “news avoidance,” and “news filtering” when people are being deluged with excess information in a crisis-related context. The findings of this study will be novel approaches to news overload in a changing news environment especially during a crisis that has not been adopted by existing literature.