How Do Conspiratorial Explanations Differ from Non-Conspiratorial Explanations? A Content Analysis of Real-World Online Articles
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Description: The present research aims to identify unique characteristics of written conspiracy theories. In two preregistered quantitative human-coded content analyses, we compared 36 pairs of conspiratorial and non-conspiratorial online articles about various events. As predicted, conspiratorial articles – compared to non-conspiratorial articles – contained less factual, more emotional, and more threat-related information. Also, we predicted and found that conspiratorial articles presented more argumentation against the opposing standpoint and that they provided explanations that were more dispositional and less falsifiable. Contrary to our predictions, we did not consistently observe that conspiratorial articles presented less argumentation for their own standpoint. Also, we did not find consistent support that conspiratorial articles provided less information about the specific process or more information about the underlying goals of the respective events, or that conspiratorial explanations attributed the events to a lesser extent to situational factors. We discuss the relevance of our findings for the understanding of conspiracy theories.