A UNIVERSITY College Cork (UCC) researcher has been awarded a scholarship to support his efforts to tackle conspiracy theories via a video game.
Cian O’Mahony has been announced as one of two awardees of the inaugural Irish Research Council (IRC) and Google Ireland Scholarship under the IRC Enterprise Partnership Scheme. A PhD student at UCC’s School of Applied Psychology, Mr O’Mahony says that providing conspiracy theorists with factual counterarguments has proven to be ineffective among a cohort who deny the truth as part of the very conspiracy in which they believe.
“A more promising method then may be to equip individuals with the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate a conspiracy theory so that, when presented with a conspiracy theory, they will ask themselves how feasible it is, and question the source and its motivation,” Mr O’Mahony said.
“My research will explore a novel method of encouraging individuals to think critically about conspiracy theories; a video game. Games have been shown to be an efficient means of attitudinal change and combating misinformation.”
Announcing the scholarship, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy, said ‘over the past two years we have seen the shift to online accelerate almost overnight and with it a growing reliance on remote working and remote learning.
“While there are many benefits in this, there are risks and challenges,” he said. “The spread of misinformation online has highlighted a greater need for more robust solutions to online content safety. The world is now online and information spreads faster than any other point in history. We must ensure that with such rapid growth, the internet remains a safe and reliable resource for all.”
Mr O’Mahony is hosted and mentored by Dr Gillian Murphy and Dr. Conor Linehan at UCC’s School of Applied Psychology.