Date of Award

June 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Charisse L'Pree Corsbie-Massay


corrective information, disinformation, health crisis, narrative, social media, threat appraisal

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Disinformation is prevalent in the current social media environment and circulated just as quickly as truthful information. Research has investigated what motivates the spread of disinformation and how to combat it. However, limited research focuses on how fear-arousing disinformation during crises affects individuals’ belief in disinformation and to what extent corrective information can subdue the persuasive effects of fear-arousing disinformation. To address this gap, this research tests the effects of fear-arousing disinformation and different types of corrective information (i.e., no corrective information, simple corrective information, or narrative corrective information) on belief in disinformation and intentions to spread disinformation on social media, during a crisis—the spread of an unknown health virus. Furthermore, adapting the important roles of situational fear and threat appraisal in predicting people’s health behavioral changes, this research examines the underlying psychological mechanisms of fear and threat appraisal of a crisis in the effects of fear-arousing disinformation and different types of corrective information on belief in disinformation and intentions to spread disinformation on social media.

Study 1 tests the interaction between fear-arousing disinformation and the presence of corrective information. Therefore, a 2 by 2 experiment was conducted in Study 1: disinformation (fear-neutral disinformation vs. fear-arousing disinformation) × corrective information (no corrective information vs. simple corrective information). Study 2 advances Study 1 by testing whether narrative corrective information decreases belief in disinformation. Study 2 conducted a 2 by 2 experiment (disinformation: fear-neutral disinformation vs. fear-arousing disinformation × corrective information: simple corrective information vs. narrative corrective information). A total of 419 data collected between January and February 2019 from Amazon MTurk were analyzed (205 for Study 1 and 214 for Study 2).

The current research notes several key findings: 1) Fear-arousing disinformation does not make people believe the disinformation under risky situations and it can even make people avoid the disinformation content as a coping strategy when there is no corrective information presented. 2) Simple corrective information serves as an effective corrective information strategy when fear-neutral disinformation is shown but can backfire when fear-arousing disinformation is presented. 3) Corrective information that features individual narratives does not differ from simple alerts on their abilities to reduce misperceptions, situational fear, situational threat appraisal, and intentions to spread disinformation on social media. 4) Across individual differences, social media usage (i.e., social media use for news, social media use for fact-finding, and social media use for social interaction, health blog usage) emerges as significant factors that decide disinformation and corrective information processing.

By testing effects of disinformation in terms of fear-arousal, which reflects a crisis of the spread of a health virus, this research addressed how fear-arousing disinformation and different forms of corrective information affect beliefs in disinformation and willingness to spread disinformation on social media, and how situational fear and situational threat appraisal may play their roles in the belief in disinformation mechanism.


Open Access