Science denial and medical misinformation in pandemic times: a psycho-criminological analysis

Anita Lavorgna*, Heather Myles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This study integrates criminological social learning and psychological explanations of individual factors and mechanisms for science denial to offer an individual-level analysis of ‘alternative lifestyle’ subcultural groups in cyberspace in order to understand the assimilation, success and proliferation of potentially dangerous health-related misinformation. Through a rigorous passive online ethnography of two relevant self-identifying ‘alternative lifestyle’ Italian- and English-speaking online communities observed over the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed the unfolding of online narratives and behavioural intentions of criminological and psychological interest. We identified in our data both individual factors and mechanisms for science denial and clues to social learning, and we showed how they interrelate. Furthermore, by looking at the linguistic and visual resources used to shape how participants think through social learning mechanisms, we identified four main narrative frames: informative; oppositional; empathetic; and agency and spirituality. The findings of this study provide a more comprehensive understanding of the reasons for and mechanisms behind medical misinformation online and suggest ways to mitigate the related harms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1574-1594
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Volume19
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • medical misinformation
  • online ethnography
  • science denial
  • social learning
  • social media

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