Dr. Lena Frischlich recently participated in a German video on conspiracy myths, which was published by North Rhine-Westphalia’s State Agency for Civic Education. Together with Ingo Grabowsky, Pia Lamberty, Thomas Laschik, Christian Stöcker and others, she talks about the history of conspiracy theories and explains how they work. Besides, she recommends some preventive measures, which can be taken if one knows a conspiracist: talk to them in private, do not try to convince them with just facts and most importantly – know when to take a break and step back in order not to damage the strained relationship further.
The State Agency for Civic Education is responsible for strengthening democratic competence and increasing political participation. Furthermore, it aims to reflect a broad spectrum of social and political orientations. Besides publishing different magazines and books, they also shoot educational videos, e.g. on the political system in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Study: Even a single distorted news item can influence susceptible peoples’ opinion formation about political candidates
Distorted news about political candidates also circulated in the current Bundestag election campaign. Especially about the candidate of the Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, a variety of false reports and distorted representations circulated (see here). A series of experiments shows that even reading a single distorted article instead of a traditional journalistic contribution can lead to a more negative evaluation of previously unknown political candidates. This effect is most pronounced among people with a stronger affinity for authority and conspiracy narratives. People without these characteristics seem to be less impressionable. But even among these people, opinion formation suffers when journalistic information is lacking. However, voting intentions themselves are not directly influenced by this. Researchers from the University of Münster came to these conclusions based on a series of experiments with a total of 1,024 participants, which were published in the journal Social Influence on 4 October 2021.
Background information on the study
Under the direction of Dr. Lena Frischlich, communication scientists and psychologists from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU), together with former students, investigated the perception and effect of distorted news on the formation of political opinion in three experimental studies. In each study, the participants read either a distorted news report or a traditional journalistic text about a previously unknown political candidate of the Greens or the CDU. The participants then rated the credibility of the article and the candidate himself. In addition, the participants reported their voting intentions.
The distorted news was consistently rated as less credible than the journalistic contributions. “This is certainly gratifying for journalism, but should not be too reassuring, since some people did believe the distorted news,” explains Dr. Jens Hellmann, the study’s second author.
Particularly important for the democratic process: those who read the distorted news subsequently judged the political candidate more negatively and less trustworthily than those participants who could inform themselves from journalistic articles. Again, this was especially true for those with more pronounced allegiance to authority and stronger approval of conspiracy narratives. However, people without these characteristics also rated the candidate more negatively if they had read a biased article rather than a journalistic one. “We suspect,” says Dr. Lena Frischlich, the study’s lead author, “that the biased article simply did not provide these individuals with enough information to form an informed opinion in the first place.”
“In summary, our results show that the effect of biased news on democratic decisions must also be considered in the context of journalistic reporting,” says Lena Frischlich. “Biased news unfolds its full effect primarily on certain individuals. But we all need access to trustworthy information in order to form an informed opinion about political candidates,” Frischlich continues. However, the distorted news had no direct influence on voting intentions.
Together with Dr. Bernd Zywietz, Head of Political Extremism Division at jugendschutz.net, Dr. Lena Frischlich gave insights into her work and talked about radicalisation, online disinformation, and so-called “eudaimonic” online propaganda. It was the first edition of the HiN Lounge – an initiative by hass-im-netz.de to talk about online extremism and hate and to introduce interesting projects, people, and learnings. Two takeaways of this episode for media users on how to change their personal online environment: Encourage and strengthen positive posts and check the account information before you repost something.
See the full video to learn about the media producers’ responsibility and strengthen your knowledge of our media environment.
hass-im.netz.de is a service provided by jugendschutz.net and supported by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. It aims to present and discuss recent developments in the right-wing extremist and Islamstic scene.
Tim Schatto-Eckrodt participates in COGITATIO webinar
Other speakers included the issue’s editor, Johannes Breuer (GESIS—Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany), as well as Julian Unkel (LMU Munich, Germany), Frederic René Hopp (University of California Santa Barbara, USA), and Anna Sophie Kümpel (TU Dresden, Germany), all of whom participated to the issue as authors.
Cogitatio is a publisher based in Lisbon, Portugal, with the aim of promoting open access divulgation of scientific knowledge. Founded in 2014 by Mr. António Vieira, Cogitatio hosts four online open access peer-reviewed journals: Media and Communication (ISSN: 2183-2439), Politics and Governance (ISSN: 2183-2463), Social Inclusion (ISSN: 2183-2803), and Urban Planning (ISSN: 2183-7635).
Lena Frischlich gives interview on this year’s DLM symposium
How is disinformation strategically disseminated online?
Lena Frischlich was interviewed by tagesschau presenter Constantin Schreiber for the DLM symposium 2021, “(Dis)information: Media and social networks in the super election year”. The interview addressed disinformation, the role of alternative news, and what to expect in view of this year’s German federal election in September. Prior to Lena Frischlich, Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the German Bundestag held a keynote speech on the “Opportunities and risks of new means of communication for the public and representative democracy”. Other high-ranking guests were Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President of for Values and Transparency and Dr. Tobias Schmid, Director of the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The DLM is the Director’s Conference of the State Media Authorities (Direktorenkonferenz der Landesmedienanstalten) which is part of die medienanstalten, the umbrella brand of the 14 Media Authorities in Germany.
What is a “narrative”? Lena Frischlich guest in “RISE” podcast
As the term “narrative” appears to have found its place in the (media) mainstream, it is time to ask what narratives actually are, how they work and how they can be used – also by extremists during the corona crisis. Lena Frischlich joins the RISE podcast and explains the background as well as the wider implications of narratives in the context of extremism and propaganda.
RISEis a project of the JFF Institute for Media Pedagogy that develops learning material on Islamist content for young people. Two key aspects of the project are the support of young moviemakers who produce content on extremist positions from a youth perspective as well as the production of material for professionals working in media pedagogy.
Lena Frischlich publishes article on democratic resilience on the website of the inter-university institution “W&K”
In the online article, Lena Frischlich describes the different concepts of resilience in psychology:
“Psychology differentiates between resilience as a result and resilience as a process (Miller-Graff, 2020). The process perspective not only focuses at the observable result such as whether it is possible to return to a state of well-being after a strain, but also at the mix of obstacles and resources in coping (Hamby et al., 2018).”
She then moves to what it means for a democracy to be resilient and what challenges emerge from a digital society. One thing that becomes clear: democratic resilience from a result- and process-oriented perspective neither aims to prevent anti-democratic communication nor does it accept every content framed as opinion. Rather, it assesses measures on whether they stay committed to deliberative ideals in the course of democratic discourses.
The inter-university institution “Wissenschaft und Kunst” (W&K; science & art) is a collaboration between the Paris-Lodron university and the Mozarteum University Salzburg. To objective is to mediate between science and art through scientific projects, events as well as a comprehensive curriculum.
Lena Frischlich interviewed by Westfälische Nachrichten
Lena Frischlich gave an interview to the Münster-based newspaper Westfälische Nachrichten. It offers interesting insights into how we talk to each other online, how digital communication looks like in times of a global pandemic, and what this means for the concept of resilience. One of the take-home messages: Selective perception plays an important role.
Westfälische Nachrichten was founded in 1946 and is the largest newspaper in Münster.
New Special Issue with Lena Frischlich in the open-access journal “Media and Communication”
Lena Frischlich, Diana Rieger (LMU Munich, Germany) and Lindsay Hahn (University at Buffalo–State University of New York, USA) edited the new issue of the open-access journal Media and Communication called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Inspirational Media between Meaning, Narration, and Manipulation”. It gives insights into inspirational media, tackling the “different components of the inspiration process, including: evocative content, individuals’ emotional and excitatory responses to provoking content, and the motivational consequences of both.” The editorial by Frischlich, Rieger and Hahn can be found here.
Media and Communication (ISSN: 2183-2439) is an international open-access journal dedicated to a wide variety of basic and applied research in communication and its related fields.