Manipulation, Exaggeration and Conspiracy. Experimental Approaches to a Better Understanding of the Belief in Conspiracy Theories.

Organization Unit: Lehrstuhl für Allgemeine Psychologie und Methodenlehre
Author(s): Raab, Marius Hans
Supervisor: Carbon, Claus-Christian ; Rüsseler, Jascha
Publisher Information: Bamberg : opus
Issue Date: 2016
Page count/Size: 139, 3 Seiten : Illustrationen, Diagramme
Kumulative Dissertation, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, 2016
This dissertation will explore conspiracy theories from a psychological viewpoint—both theoretically and empirically. Conspiracy theories are introduced here as a phenomenon relevant for many aspects of entertainment, history, popular culture, society, politics, and ideology. The phenomenon is defined and discussed, with its epistemic characteristics and ramifications, from a philosophical viewpoint. It is argued that there is no standard practice for the judgement of conspiracy theories, and that a case-by-case consideration is a pragmatic resolution for this epistemic problem. Along with proposing and implementing a new means of measurement for the belief in conspiracy theories in Raab, Ortlieb, Auer, Guthmann, and Carbon (2013) called narrative construction, it is argued that nearly everyone will construct a conspiracy theory for an important event (exemplified with the 9/11 attacks), which is probably
not a sign of delusion, but of identity construction and management. However, the genesis of such beliefs is prone to distortions. The mere presence of extreme (in terms of conspiratorial value) information might foster the construction of narrations significantly more extreme—without people noticing it. In Raab, Auer, Ortlieb, and Carbon (2013), we have called this the Sarrazin effect. To better understand why conspiratorial narrations are so widespread, powerful and possibly dangerous, psychological and philosophical theories are applied; for example, narrations (and thus conspiracy theories) can be considered cognitive simulations of possible states of the world. Here, it would also be desirable to understand why a given person adheres to a specific narrative content, so the link between personal values (in a psychological sense) and conspiracy belief was analysed empirically. The results were reported in a conference paper (Raab, Kammerl, & Carbon, 2015). Also, a current research question is if people automatically begin to elaborate conspiracy beliefs for a new event, or if it takes psychological triggers to start this process. We found empirical evidence in Gebauer, Raab, and Carbon (2016) that
information has to include testimony of causation (someone causing an event directly) and purpose (someone causing this deliberately), so that people begin to assume a conspiracy at work. To make the knowledge presented here, as well as the results gathered by researchers in the past years and decades, available to a larger audience, a work-in-progress project for a popular science book on conspiracy theories is presented. The conspiracy theory is the message then (speaking with Marshall McLuhan), as those theories extend our realm of human affairs. To integrate the findings of this thesis, a construction kit for conspiracy theories is proposed; and dangers as well as chances of such narrations are discussed with regard to societal progress.
Catchwords: Verschwörungstheorie ; Psychologie ; Online-Publikation
Keywords: dissertation, conspiracy theory, psychology, experimental psychology, narratology
DDC Subject Keywords: 150 Psychologie
RVK - Regensburger Verbundklassifikation: CP 4000; CV 5500; CV 3500
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-opus4-472343
Document Type: Doctoralthesis
Language(s): English
Licence: Creative Commons - CC BY - Attribution 3.0 International
Release Date: 19. September 2019

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