Whether it's a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, information is crucial during a crisis. People need to know the facts about what is happening and what they need to do.
But these days, there's almost too much information available - and it isn't always accurate. And that can cause even more chaos in an already stressful situation, according to a new study from the University of California in Irvine.
Take Two's A Martinez spoke with doctoral student, Nickolas Jones. He studies human responses to crises and was part of the UCI project that looked at how mixed messages affect those who are receiving them. The study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Jones explained that the study's findings reflected that participants who use used Twitter as their primary source of information reported more conflicting information than others.
"The speculation that gets embedded in these kinds of situations, especially when there's a lack of information from officials, that increases uncertainty even more," Jones said. "That's the chain we think is happening here, and probably explains the increased distress responses we observed in our survey and we observed in the Twitter data."
The study inspired recommendations on how to dispel rumors during an emergency. Jones urged officials to monitor social media for false information and immediately put out clarifications. But for individuals, he recommends taking what you see with a grain of salt.
"If people are going to use social media to get their information during crisis events, it's just important that they keep a skeptical mind about the information they're getting."