On The Role of Social Identity in the Market for (Mis)information

Vijeth Hebbar, Cedric Langbort

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Motivated by recent works in the communication and psychology literature, we model and study the role social identity - a person's sense of belonging to a group - plays in human information consumption. A hallmark of Social Identity Theory (SIT) is the notion of 'status', i.e., an individual's desire to enhance their and their 'in-group's' utility relative to that of an 'out-group'. In the context of belief formation, this comes off as a desire to believe positive news about the in-group and negative news about the out-group, which has been empirically shown to support belief in misinformation and false news.We model this phenomenon as a Stackelberg game being played over an information channel between a news-source (sender) and news-consumer (receiver), with the receiver incorporating the 'status' associated with social identity in their utility, in addition to accuracy. We characterize the strategy that must be employed by the sender to ensure that its message is trusted by receivers of all identities while maximizing accuracy of information. We show that, as a rule, this optimal quality of information at equilibrium decreases when a receiver's sense of identity increases. Our work supports the perspective that identity based reasoning among receivers is a motivating factor in encouraging media slant. We further demonstrate how extensions of our model can be used to quantitatively estimate the level of importance given to identity in a population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2022 IEEE 61st Conference on Decision and Control, CDC 2022
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781665467612
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event61st IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, CDC 2022 - Cancun, Mexico
Duration: Dec 6 2022Dec 9 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control
ISSN (Print)0743-1546
ISSN (Electronic)2576-2370


Conference61st IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, CDC 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Control and Optimization


Dive into the research topics of 'On The Role of Social Identity in the Market for (Mis)information'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this