Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3267: Misinformation, Misperceptions and Conspiracy Theories

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.

Module Content

Syllabus Plan

While the specific syllabus plan will change depending on both the most recent research and who is teaching the module, the following broad topics (1-2 weeks per topic) should be expected, with the possibility of additional topics also covered:

  • How prevalent in misinformation? How do we identify good information from bad information?
  • Who consumes misinformation (or “fake news”)? What are the primary vectors by which misinformation spreads in society? What are the correlates of consuming misinformation, and how is this information consumed? What factors are associated with people choosing to spread misinformation?
  • Are interventions capable of stopping the spread of misinformation, or how people process information that is of dubious quality? What is the current state-of-the-art in effective interventions?
  • How prevalent are misperceptions in the public? What do misperceptions (and their persistence) tell us about the health of public discourse and democracy? How are misperceptions related to motivated reasoning? Why are some people more accurate in their factual beliefs than others?
  • Can misperceptions be corrected? If so, what are best practices for correcting misperceptions? Can journalistic fact-checking stop help voters and consumers, and stop the spread of misinformation?
  • How prevalent are conspiracy beliefs? What factors associated with believing in conspiracy theories? How (easily) does conspiracy ideation spread?

While not a specific topic, a companion theme to the broad topics and questions above is how the answers may vary across different countries. While most research in this area is conducted with data from the United States, we will also include data from additional countries to better understand to which these are universal problems, or whether they are specifically rooted in the particular political culture and institutions of the United States.

Learning and Teaching

This table provides an overview of how your hours of study for this module are allocated:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

...and this table provides a more detailed breakdown of the hours allocated to various study activities:

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities222 hour weekly seminars with a mix of short formal lectures, student led seminar, and collective discussion
Guided Independent Study50Preparing for seminars: reading and research
Guided Independant Study78Completing assessment tasks: reading, research and writing

Online Resources

This module has online resources available via ELE (the Exeter Learning Environment).