Data Portraits and Intermediary Topics: Encouraging Exploration of Politically Diverse Profiles

Mar 7, 2016

In micro-blogging platforms, people connect and interact with others. However, due to cognitive biases, they tend to interact with like-minded people and read agreeable information only. Many efforts to make people connect with those who think differently have not worked well. In this paper, we hypothesize, first, that previous approaches have not worked because they have been direct – they have tried to explicitly connect people with those having opposing views on sensitive issues. Second, that neither recommendation or presentation of information by themselves are enough to encourage behavioral change. We propose a platform that mixes a recommender algorithm and a visualization-based user interface to explore recommendations. It recommends politically diverse profiles in terms of distance of latent topics, and displays those recommendations in a visual representation of each user’s personal content. We performed an “in the wild” evaluation of this platform, and found that people explored more recommendations when using a biased algorithm instead of ours. In line with our hypothesis, we also found that the mixture of our recommender algorithm and our user interface, allowed politically interested users to exhibit an unbiased exploration of the recommended profiles. Finally, our results contribute insights in two aspects: first, which individual differences are important when designing platforms aimed at behavioral change; and second, which algorithms and user interfaces should be mixed to help users avoid cognitive mechanisms that lead to biased behavior.

  • ACM International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2016)
  • Conference/Workshop Paper