University of Twente Student Theses


The Role of Outgroup Threat and Deprivation in People's Susceptibility to Disinformation

Wagner, Kai (2022) The Role of Outgroup Threat and Deprivation in People's Susceptibility to Disinformation.

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Abstract:Disinformation efforts by foreign state actors are a serious threat to the legitimacy of the institutions of the target country, as well as to a democratic and harmonious coexistence. This research identified emotions of deprivation and outgroup threat as risk factors that facilitate people’s susceptibility to disinformation, with political leaning, government- and interpersonal trust as covariates. Out of a sample of 174 participants, some were asked to read texts designed to evoke emotions of deprivation or outgroup threat, or both, while others were not. All participants were then asked to read a news article illustrating of scandals taking place in a fictional city. The scandals depicted the local government, businesses and institutions in a negative light, and were intended to provide participants who had read the manipulations with a convenient, conspiratory explanation for their own deprivation and negative impacts of outgroup presence. Participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire. Susceptibility to disinformation was measured by inserting false statements that deviated from the article, and made the government look worse, into the questionnaire. Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed with 16 statements about the contents of the article and a susceptibility score was calculated according to the extent to which participants agreed with false statements. Results found that deprivation did not have an effect on susceptibility, while outgroup threat did. Further insights were gained on the effectiveness of the design of the experiment, as well as the impact of covariates such as age and political leaning. Recommendations were made on how to improve the study and the importance of guarding against disinformation.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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