From Far-Right to Alternative Medicine: A Social Identity Approach to Misinformed Beliefs


  • Gabija Aurylaite University of Vienna


New ideas are evaluated against prior beliefs tied to social identity [1], [2]. Misinformation consistent with social identity is more readily accepted [1] and less likely to be scrutinised [2]. However, information that does not fit one's identity requires more time to assess its compatibility against existing knowledge, suggesting an opportunity for a potentially successful intervention. Nonetheless, this has not yet been tested empirically. 

In the latest pre-print, EMOMIS (The Interplay of Emotion and Misinformation Spreading on Social Media) team concluded that studies need to distinguish between prior affective state and emotional response to misinformation and consider individuals’ prior beliefs as determinants of emotion [3]. A follow-up online survey experiment tests a social identity intervention aimed at enhancing critical engagement with far-right media content and reassessing misinformed beliefs about alternative medicine.It investigates:  

How learning about the association of right-extreme political groups with alternative medicine affects momentary feelings toward alternative medicine?  

The study employs a randomised controlled pre-post design. All participants (~800, Germany and Austria-based, aged 18 or above) are recruited via Positly. Participants are randomly assigned to the treatment or control group. The treatment group receives information about the historical and current far-right advocacy efforts for alternative medicine and against ‘Jewish’ modern medicine, while the control group reads about the history and evolution of cabbage. Before and after the intervention, we collect measures of momentary feelings as warmth, trust, and doubts towards alternative medicine and conventional medicine, together with trust in vaccines. In addition, we measure demographics, political orientation and conspiratorial attitudes. The hypothesis is that reading the intervention text significantly reduces momentary feelings toward alternative medicine in the treatment compared to the control group.

For momentary feelings toward alternative and conventional medicine, the effect of the intervention will be analysed in R using Linear Mixed Effects Model(s) with a random intercept per participant to account for repeated measures. To ensure the robustness of the data, manipulation checks and an attention check are included. The study is preregistered to increase transparency and robustness of the results. If the hypothesis is confirmed, the validated intervention design could provide insights to develop strategies aimed at combating misinformation tied to social identity, thereby enhancing public health education.


[1] S. Lewandowsky, U. K. Ecker, C. M. Seifert, N. Schwarz, and J. Cook, “Misinformation and its correction,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 106–131, Sep. 2012. doi:10.1177/1529100612451018 

[2]  N. Schwarz, “Attitude construction: Evaluation in context,” Social Cognition, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 638–656, Oct. 2007. doi:10.1521/soco.2007.25.5.638 

[3] J. Lühring, A. Shetty, C. Koschmieder, D. Garcia, A. Waldherrand H. Metzler, “Emotions in misinformation studies: Distinguishing affective state from emotional response and misinformation recognition from acceptance”, 03-Apr-2023. [Online]. Available: