Many use push notifications, but few click through to the news. Those who receive the least information about a dramatic event are the ones who express the most concern and have the greatest need to communicate about the event. A starting point for the study is that the editorial staff of information often see examples of alarming news, such as bomb threats, which are widely disseminated but are later downplayed. The news about how things really are usually gets less space. A big piece of news immediately reaches many people via various digital media.

Before digitization, an event was often settled when it was reported in newspapers or broadcast media. Then the news got its proper proportion, for example: false alarm closed departure hall for two hours. A note at most, which many may not have even noticed.

Small events are perceived as threats

When the media publishes continuously, around the clock, it is easy for even small events to be perceived as major threats. If millions of people get a push notification on their phone that an airport has been closed due to a bomb threat, that information stays in their minds because the follow-up is not given as much attention, if it turns out to be a false alarm. How does an increasing frequency of alarming news affect public concern about accidents and terrorism. How many get an exaggerated picture of how many serious events really happen. Or can the effect be quite the opposite, that too many alarms have the effect of dulling us and not reacting to another alarming news.

Experimental study maps concerns

As part of the investigation into alarming news, the researchers at conducted a so-called experimental survey. Three groups of 616 to 660 people received varying amounts of information about a fictional dramatic event. This is to investigate how little and fragmentary information evokes different emotional reactions than information that is more complete and coherent. Experimental group 1 only received a push notification that a high school in the central city had been exposed to a bomb threat, and that the police had evacuated and set up cordons. Experimental group 2 received the same push notice but also another push notice in which it was stated that the suspected bomb was a harmless object and that the police lifted the cordons.

The third experimental group received a slightly longer news bulletin that summarized what had happened earlier in the day and also announced that the school children’s parents had been notified and that the police had begun a preliminary investigation.