Psycholinguistic Markers of COVID-19 Conspiracy Tweets and Predictors of Tweet Dissemination

Stephen A. Rains, Gondy Leroy, Echo L. Warner, Philip I Harber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The adoption of conspiracy theories about COVID-19 has been fairly widespread among the general public and associated with the rejection of self-protective behaviors. Despite their significance, however, a gap remains in our understanding of the underlying characteristics of messages used to disseminate COVID-19 conspiracies. We used the construct of resonance as a framework to examine a sample of more than 1.8 million posts to Twitter about COVID-19 made between April and June 2020. Our analyses focused on the psycholinguistic properties that distinguish conspiracy theory tweets from other COVID-19 topics and predict their spread. COVID-19 conspiracy tweets were distinct and most likely to resonate when they provided explanations and expressed negative emotions. The results highlight the sensemaking functions served by conspiracy tweets in response to the profound upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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