The Psychology of State-Sponsored Disinformation Campaigns
On August 24, 2023, CPD Faculty Fellow Erik Nisbet joined us for a virtual conversation about the psychology of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Policy discourse about disinformation has focused on the technological dimensions and strategies of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns and their diffusion. Unfortunately, this myopic focus on technology has led to insufficient attention paid to the underlying psychological factors driving the success of state-sponsored disinformation operations. The scientific evidence about disinformation strongly suggests that belief in false or misleading information is driven more so by individual emotional and cognitive biases, sometimes amplified by macro social, political, and cultural trends, than specific information technologies. The attention, therefore, given to countering the distribution and promulgation of disinformation through specific platforms, at the expense of understanding the human factors at play, hampers the ability of public diplomacy efforts to counter it.
This presentation addressed this lacuna by reviewing emotional and cognitive mechanisms underlying common disinformation strategies. Unpacking these mechanisms provides guidance for public diplomacy practitioners aiming to mitigate the influence of state-sponsored disinformation.
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