Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Kimberly Quinn, PhD
Sandra Virtue, PhD
Although conspiracy theories have long existed, they are of current interest due to their widespread nature on social media (Enders et al., 2021). Research has shown the impact of informational framing on overall conspiracy theory believability (Swami et al., 2013). Informational framing can influence overall public perception of conspiracy theories (Butler et al., 1995; Hameleers, 2020; Enders et al., 2021), showing the impact of the language used in spreading conspiracy theories. Individual difference measures have been shown to impact overall conspiracy theory belief (Swami et al., 2010; Swami et al., 2013; Douglas, 2019). However, research has not explored the relationship between the type of language used in conspiracy theories and how these individual differences may impact overall believability. Beeman’s coarse and fine semantic coding theory (Beeman et al., 1994) provides a theoretical framework to explain why literal and figurative language is processed differently in the brain. Therefore we predict that the language type used in conspiracy theories (i.e., literal or figurative language) would also be processed differently, and would significantly impact overall believability. The current study investigated whether language type in conspiracy theory texts would impact overall believability, as moderated by schizotypal ideation, magical ideation, and delusional ideation (Raine & Benishay, 1995; Eckblad & Chapman, 1983; Peters et al., 2004), as well as the interaction effects of these variables. Participants read 13 conspiracy theory texts and were randomly assigned a metaphorical or literal conspiracy text and rated their overall believability and completed three individual difference measures. Results showed significant moderated relationships for magical ideation and delusional ideation on overall conspiracy theory text believability.
Toups, Gabrielle, "The Influence of Metaphorical and Literal Language on Conspiracy Theory Belief: The Role of Language and Individual Differences" (2023). College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations. 475.