Conspiracist Thinking, Extremism, and Deprogramming

Below you'll find just a sample of the resources you’ll find in the Research Library about conspiracist thinking, extremism, and deprogramming.

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Example Resources

Conspiracism on social media: An agenda melding of group-mediated deceptions.

Authors: Bantimaroudis, Philemon; Sideri, Maria; Ballas, Dimitris; Panagiotidis, Theodore; and Ziogas

Source: International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics. Jun 2020, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p115-138.
Abstract: This study examines students' social media interactions in relation to their subcultural explorations of a conspiratorial nature. A sample of 476 students from four European universities participated in a survey about conspiracy theories in social media group discussions. In the survey, we examined various social and media factors in relation to students' beliefs in conspiracy theories. The results of this exploratory study reveal that students treat social media as news sources; furthermore, they trust social media more than traditional mass media. The study reveals demographic, personal and technological factors that encourage a mediated conspiratorial discourse.

An Improved Question Format for Measuring Conspiracy Beliefs.

Authors: Clifford, Scott; Kim, Yongkwang; and Sullivan, Brian W.
Source: Public Opinion Quarterly. Winter 2019, Vol. 83 Issue 4, p 690-722.
Abstract: In an era of increasing partisan polarization and media fragmentation, interest in the causes of conspiracy beliefs has been growing rapidly. However, there is little consensus on how to measure these beliefs. Researchers typically present respondents with a conspiratorial statement, then assess their endorsement of the statement using an agree-disagree scale, a true-false scale, or some other variant. Researchers sometimes include a no-opinion response option and sometimes do not. Yet, there is little evidence as to the best format. In this article, we argue that common measures not only are challenging for respondents to answer, but also inflate estimates of conspiracy belief among the mass public. We introduce an alternative measure that presents respondents with an explicit choice between a conspiratorial and a conventional explanation for an event. Across three studies, the explicit choice format reduces no-opinion responding and reduces estimates of conspiracy belief, particularly among those low in political knowledge or cognitive reflection. These results suggest that previous findings may be inflated due to measurement artifacts. This evidence suggests that researchers adopt the explicit choice format for measuring conspiracy beliefs and provide a no-opinion response option.

Breaking the news: Belief in fake news and conspiracist beliefs.

Authors: Anthony, Angela, and Moulding, Richard
Source: Australian Journal of Psychology. Jun 2019, Vol. 71 Issue 2, p154-162.
Abstract: Objective: Politically‐slanted fake news (FN)—manufactured disinformation, hoaxes, and satire appearing to present true information about events—is currently receiving extensive attention in the mainstream media. However, it is currently unclear what factors may influence an individual's likelihood to believe in FN, outside of political identity. As FN is often conspiratorial in nature and usually negative, it was theorised that conspiracist belief, and factors that have been found to relate to a conspiratorial worldview (i.e., dangerous worldview and schizotypy), may also relate to political FN. Method: A correlational design (N = 125, M = 27.6, SD = 4.26), was used to examine predictors of FN. Results: Political viewpoint was a consistent predictor of FN endorsement. Conspiratorial worldview and schizotypal personality also predicted FN belief, with weaker or less consistent prediction by other variables including dangerous worldview, normlessness, and randomness beliefs. Partial correlation analysis suggested that most variables related to FN through their association with conspiracist ideation and political identity beliefs. Conclusion: Prior political beliefs and the tendency for conspiracist ideation appear particularly important for individuals' endorsement of FN, regardless of prior exposure to the specific news presented. As such, conspiracy theory (CT) belief and its underlying mechanisms appear a useful starting point in identifying some of the underlying individual difference variables involved in conspiratorial and non‐conspiratorial FN belief. Implications and limitations are discussed.

Examining Conspiracist Beliefs About the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Authors: Swami, Viren, and Furnham, Adrian
Source: Journal of General Psychology. Oct-Dec2012, Vol. 139 Issue 4, p244-259.
Abstract: Previous studies have suggested that conspiracist ideation forms part of a monological belief system in which one conspiracist idea acts as evidence for new conspiracist ideas. Here, we examined this possibility in relation to an event lacking reliable or conclusive evidence, namely the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. A total of 914 members of the British general public completed scales measuring their beliefs about the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan, belief in conspiracy theories, the Big Five personality factors, support for democratic principles, political cynicism, self-esteem, and self-assessed intelligence. Results showed that belief in conspiracy theories was associated with the endorsement of less plausible explanations for the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. In addition, belief in less plausible explanations was also significantly associated with lower self-assessed intelligence, greater political cynicism, lower self-esteem, and higher Agreeableness scores. These results are discussed in relation to monological belief systems.

Commitment and Extremism: A Goal Systemic Analysis.

Authors: Klein, Kristen M., and Kruglanski, Arie W.
Source: Journal of Social Issues. Sep2013, Vol. 69 Issue 3, p419-435.
Abstract: Growing evidence suggests that uncertainty is related to extremism in its various forms. The aim of the present article is to probe the underlying psychological mechanisms of this relation. We begin by considering two disparate definitions of extremism as: (1) expressed zeal/attitude polarity, and (2) deviation from a norm. Zeal constitutes a direct expression of goal commitment, whereas deviant behavior is likely to occur under high commitment because of the greater perceived instrumentality of such behavior to the goal. We discuss a psychological mechanism that implies this increased instrumentality of deviant behavior to its goal. From this perspective, the relation between uncertainty and extremism represents a special case of the general relation between goal commitment and extremism: An aversively high degree of uncertainty augments commitment to the goal of uncertainty reduction. This in turn increases the appeal of extreme expressions seen as effective ways and means to uncertainty reduction.

Religious Deprogramming and Subjective Reality

Author: Byong-suh Kim
Source: Association for the Sociology of Religion, 1979.
Abstract: Unlike the psycho-physical interpretation of the Pavlovian approach (Hunter, 1953; Hinkle and Wolffs, 1956) or psychoanalytic notions (Lifton, 1961; Meerloo, 1956) on thought reform, we contend in this paper that contemporary religious deprogramming of American young "cultists" may be best analyzed in terms of ego-identity change as suggested by Schein (1961). The ego-identity change occurs in interaction with "significant others" who provide a unique plausibility structure through three specific stages: a shock treatment of "defreezing," "protective" or "coercive" persuasion to eliminate "floating" influence of the "cultist mind-control," and readjustment of the changed subjective reality to the larger society. A set of data was collected through intensive interviews with 17 deprogrammed youths and a few deprogrammers and rehabilitators, and through participant observations in the deprogramming-rehabilitation sessions. The data then were used as illustrative and interpretive materials in support of our contention.

Group Work with Former Cultists.

Authors: Goldberg, Lorna; Goldberg, William
Source: Social Work, v27 n2 p165-70 Mar 1982.
Abstract: Describes the purposes and structure of a therapeutic group for former members of religious cults. Delineates three stages of the "Post Mind Control" syndrome: initial post-deprograming, reemergence, and integration. Suggests interventive techniques appropriate to each of these stages.

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