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Mindsets of conspiracy: A typology of affinities towards conspiracy myths in digital environments


Schwaiger, Lisa; Schneider, Jörg; Rauchfleisch, Adrian; Eisenegger, Mark (2022). Mindsets of conspiracy: A typology of affinities towards conspiracy myths in digital environments. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 28(4):1007-1029.

Abstract

In times of crisis, the spread of conspiracy myths increases since people seek answers to complex questions. Besides societal aspects, social media platforms, especially messenger services, have been identified as a positive driver for spreading conspiracy myths. Much research focused on whether right-wing populist attitudes correlate with belief in conspiracy myths resulting in inconsistent findings. We show that different anti-system attitudes and corresponding digital media usage can promote the affinity towards conspiracy myths apart from right-wing attitudes. With this paper, we first want to sharpen the terminology on ‘conspiracy myths’ and develop a scale to measure affinity towards conspiracy myths in different dimensions. We second use this scale to investigate different mindsets of conspiracy in the Swiss population. Third, we want to find out how the dimensions correlate with messenger usage. Based on data from a representative population survey in Switzerland from November to December 2020, we investigated different affinities towards conspiracy myths, represented by far-left, far-right, populist, anti-elitism, general anti-system attitudes and science skepticism. We then used the six dimensions in a cluster analysis and identified five typological mindsets. About 30% of the population accordingly have higher affinities towards conspiracy myths than the rest. Our study also highlights the potential role of messenger services in spreading conspiracy myths. To a certain extent, Facebook Messenger and Telegram usage show a robust correlation with the different dimensions of the affinity towards conspiracy myths. In contrast, WhatsApp usage does not show a robust correlation.

Abstract

In times of crisis, the spread of conspiracy myths increases since people seek answers to complex questions. Besides societal aspects, social media platforms, especially messenger services, have been identified as a positive driver for spreading conspiracy myths. Much research focused on whether right-wing populist attitudes correlate with belief in conspiracy myths resulting in inconsistent findings. We show that different anti-system attitudes and corresponding digital media usage can promote the affinity towards conspiracy myths apart from right-wing attitudes. With this paper, we first want to sharpen the terminology on ‘conspiracy myths’ and develop a scale to measure affinity towards conspiracy myths in different dimensions. We second use this scale to investigate different mindsets of conspiracy in the Swiss population. Third, we want to find out how the dimensions correlate with messenger usage. Based on data from a representative population survey in Switzerland from November to December 2020, we investigated different affinities towards conspiracy myths, represented by far-left, far-right, populist, anti-elitism, general anti-system attitudes and science skepticism. We then used the six dimensions in a cluster analysis and identified five typological mindsets. About 30% of the population accordingly have higher affinities towards conspiracy myths than the rest. Our study also highlights the potential role of messenger services in spreading conspiracy myths. To a certain extent, Facebook Messenger and Telegram usage show a robust correlation with the different dimensions of the affinity towards conspiracy myths. In contrast, WhatsApp usage does not show a robust correlation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute for Research on the Public Sphere and Society
08 Research Priority Programs > Digital Religion(s)
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Communication
Language:English
Date:1 August 2022
Deposited On:29 Jul 2022 09:13
Last Modified:20 Jun 2024 03:35
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:1354-8565
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/13548565221106427
Project Information:
  • : FunderFederal Office of Communications OFCOM Switzerland
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)