This morning I came across a news article that read so similar to my pro-conspiracy manipulation used within a recent paper, it was quite unnerving. I have spoken about this paper before on this blog, where it was shown that exposure to pro-conspiracy information concerning climate change increased one’s conspiracy belief, which subsequently decreased their intention to reduce their carbon footprint.
This manipulation involved the climate change conspiracy theory being presented, without information refuting it (i.e., “the main-stream account”) being acknowledged. Therefore, the piece aimed to explore the direct impact of being exposed to such conspiracies. Interestingly, the news article here does appear to follow a similar pattern, rather it does not seem to mention the main-stream account to show a balance argument, and when it does, it is in rather a negative light. Further, it includes evidence from scientists, and provides a variety of statistics, all again not counter-balanced, and all again reading similar to my pro-conspiracy manipulation.
Whilst it is great that these events are discussed, there does need to be some caution. Rather, this article is presented in such a fashion that one’s beliefs (and potentially behaviours) can be influenced without one being even being aware due to the hidden impact of conspiracies, as shown in previous research. Specifically, with this media source having such an impact (e.g., the article has been liked on Facebook over two thousand times already), it should have provided a more balanced argument, and thus being potentially less unfairly influential.
In these blog posts, I aim to try and highlight the potential consequences of conspiracy theories using real examples, where possible, and also the potential impact of being exposed to such information. Conspiracy theories are fascinating, but when being exposed to such material in this pro-conspiracy fashion, you need to be aware of the influential nature of exposure to such information, and subsequently actively view it through a more critical eye.
In conclusion: Exposure to pro-conspiracy information has been shown to influence beliefs and behavioural intentions in a lab-setting. Therefore, can being exposed to such information within the media have the same detrimental effects, but in the real world? The experimental research suggests a concerning answer.