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Why could using popular neighborhood apps make you think crime is rampant?

A new study from the University of Houston found the apps affect our perception of crime.

HOUSTON — A new study from a University of Houston psychologist took a closer look at neighborhood apps – think NextDoor and Citizen. He found when people read about a crime on these apps they start to think crime is rampant in their area even when it is not.

In two studies, Adam Fetterman found people who used neighborhood apps perceived local crime rates to be higher than people who didn’t use the apps, independent of the neighborhood's actual crime rate.

The root of the problem could be human nature. The whole idea of seeing is believing. It’s a lot easier for our brains to absorb a story from a friend or neighbor than statistical analysis of crime rates.

According to Fetterman, when science doesn’t match our personal experience humans are more likely to believe science is wrong.

Another issue is how social media algorithms work. They tend to prioritize content on your feed that gets a lot of interactions. Since a post about a break-in is probably going to get a bigger reaction than a post about a garage sale, making you more likely to see the post about crime.

Researchers do warn that while they have established a connection, not everyone using these apps is paranoid. Just a reminder that social media is not real life.

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