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Spotlight: TRiSS Postgraduate Research Fellowships 2019/20


David Moore from the Department of Political Science was awarded a Postgraduate Research Fellowship for his project entitled: Explaining the Variation in Individuals' Conspiratorial Beliefs: The Effect of Exposure to Emotive Conspiratorial Messaging in the Media. He describes his project as follows:

Why do some people believe in conspiracy theories and others do not? Why, for instance, do 60 per cent of Americans believe that the CIA was involved in the assassination of JFK whilst, 25 per cent believe that Barack Obama was born outside of the US? This dissertation proposes that an important, yet overlooked factor in individuals' perception of conspiracy theories is their exposure to emotive messaging. The use of emotions in conspiratorial messaging is widely noted with anger, fear, and anxiety being particularly prevalent. However, a thorough understanding of the strategic use of emotive language in conspiratorial messaging and its effect on individuals' opinion formation is lacking.

In order to evaluate the use of emotive language in conspiracy theories, and its effect upon individuals' acceptance of these theories, this project will employ a survey experiment. By exposing individuals to a conspiracy theory through varying emotive frames, this project aims to demonstrate that the presence of negative emotive language in conspiratorial messaging plays a significant role in the likelihood of an individual believing in that theory. Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread and actively undermines democracies. Thus, understanding how individuals come to hold these views is of the utmost importance