CONNECT

Countering ONline NEtworked Conspiracy Theories

A ​collaborative research project between the University of Miami and Indiana University that examines the causes and consequences of the spread of unsubstantiated information online.

About Us

     Online conspiracy theories can lead people to dismiss authoritative public health information, to perpetrate violence, distrust authoritative scientific information, attack democratic institutions, and harass fellow citizens. With the rise of social media, conspiracy theories can reach scores of people at unprecedented speed. To counter the spread of belief in conspiracy theories, one must first understand how and why such beliefs form and spread online. CONNECT is multi-disciplinary group of scholars to investigate and uncover the nature and spread of conspiracy theories online. Our main objectives are to examine why conspiracy theories appeal to people and affect psychological processes, and how online groups accelerate the spread of belief in conspiracy theories.          
     ​  CONNECT adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, synthesizing text and visual rhetorical analysis, computational and cognitive linguistics, social and behavioral science, network science, and signal and information processing. Our project investigates how past and contemporary conspiracy theories are constructed using a common set of narrative and rhetorical forms, and how they are designed to appeal to people's prior attitudes or beliefs, social identity, and aesthetic tastes. We will study how conspiracy theory texts’ narrative and manipulative rhetorical forms stimulate specific psychological processes that increase belief. Our work entails examining how psychological predispositions, moral values, political beliefs, sociocultural attitudes, social identity, and group affinities drive people's receptivity to conspiracy theory messaging and affect whether they take subsequent action in response. The project also addresses how network structures shape the spread of belief in conspiracy theories. Our research approach will help us reveal the connections among conspiracy theory content, social and behavioral processes, and group and network structures.      

Latest News

We are excited and honored to receive the National Science Foundation SaTC CORE research grant for our work: A Multi-Disciplinary Analyses of the Nature and Spread of Unsubstantiated Information Online.

Thomas B. Edsall's essay in The New York Times  highlights our research on "American Politics in Two Dimensions: Partisan and Ideological Identities versus Anti-Establishment Orientations." 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver featured our work, "Why do people believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories?"

"We are very excited to launch this NSF SaTC project to continue studying the flow of unsubstantiated information over the internet," said Manohar Murthi, Principle Investigator at the University of Miami. "Our team seeks to answer how and why people spread this type of information online, and with what consequences. In answering these questions, our ultimate objective is to formulate countermeasures to these dangerous narratives.”

Research

Our research aims to explore the connections among conspiracy theory content, social and behavioral processes, and group and network structures.

Publications

Uscinski, J., Enders, A., Klofstad, C., Seelig, M.,Wuchty, S., Funchion, J., Murthi, M. Premaratne, K. & Everett, C. (2020). “Why Do People Believe COVID‐19 Conspiracy Theories?”  Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, 1 (3) https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-015

Enders, A., Uscinski, J., Seelig, M., Wuchty, S., Everett, C., Klofstad, C.., Murthi, M., Premarante, K., & Funchion, J. (2021) “The Relationship between Social Media Use and Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation,” Political Behavior https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-021-09734-6

Enders, A., Uscinski, J. E., Wuchty, S.,  Everett, C., Klofstad, C., Murthi, M., Premarante, K., Seelig, M., & Funchion, J. (2021). “The 2020 presidential election and beliefs about fraud: Continuity or change?” Electoral Studies, 72https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2021.102366

Uscinski, J. E., Enders, A. M., Seelig, M. I., Klofstad, C. A., Funchion, J. R., Everett, C., Wuchty, S., Premaratne, K., & Murthi, M. N. (2021). American Politics in Two Dimensions: Partisan and Ideological Identities versus Anti‐Establishment Orientations. American Journal of Political Sciencehttps://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12616 

Enders, A., Uscinski, J., Klofstad, C., Wuchty, S., Murthi, M., Premarante, K., Seelig, M. & Funchion, J. (2021) “Do Conspiracy Beliefs form a Belief System? Examining the Structure and Organization of Conspiracy Beliefs,” Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 9(1), 255-271https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.5649

working papers

Uscinski, J. E., Enders, A., Klofstad, C., Murthi, M., Premaratne, K.,  Seelig, M. & Drochon, H. (Under review). “Has Conspiracy Theorizing Increased Over Time?”

Uscinski, J. E., Enders, A., Wuchty, S., Everett, C., Klofstad, C., Murthi, M., Premarante, K., Seelig, M. & Funchion, J.  “Denialism and Its Effect on Beliefs  in Medicine, Science, and Politics.”

Our Team

Manohar Murthi, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Miami.

Stefan Wuchty, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Miami.

Joseph E. Uscinski, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami.

Michelle Seelig, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Associate Professor in the Department of Interactive Media at the University of Miami.

John Funchion, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Associate Professor in the Department of English at the Unversity of Miami.

Sandra Kuebler, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Professor in the Deparment of Linguistics at Indiana University.

Amanda Diekman, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University.

Casey Klosfstad, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami.

Kamal Premaratne, Ph.D.

Co-principal Investigator

Victor P Clarke Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Miami.