Date of Graduation

7-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Scott Eidelman

Committee Member

Denise Beike

Second Committee Member

James Lampinen

Keywords

affect, attitudes, belief system, conspiracy theories, persuasion

Abstract

The prevalence of conspiracy theories is a topic of increasing concern among researchers. Much of the research in this area has been focused on why people endorse conspiracy theories, and relatively little attention has been paid to how they may be mitigated. What research has been done focused primarily on interventions with arguments based in cognitive, fact-based appeals, with mixed success. The present research draws on findings from the attitudes and persuasion literature to test the hypothesis that conspiracy theory endorsement is more effectively reduced by affectively-based arguments than by cognitively-based arguments. Two affectively-based interventions were tested against a cognitively-based intervention and a control. The affective/empathy condition and the cognitive condition were equally effective at reducing anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs. The affective/threat condition performed similarly to the control. Affectively-based persuasion does not appear more effective than traditional cognitively-based interventions, but may be an equally effective alternate strategy for reducing conspiracy beliefs.

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