Visual disinformation in a digital age: A literature synthesis and research agenda

Weikmann, Teresa; Lecheler, Sophie
New Media & Society

While a fast-growing body of research is concerned with the detrimental consequences of disinformation for democracy, the role of visuals in this context has so far only been discussed superficially. Visuals are expected to amplify the impact of disinformation, but it is rarely specified how, and what exactly distinguishes them from text. This article is one of the first to treat visual disinformation as its own type of falsehood, arguing that it differs from textual disinformation in its production, processing and effects. We suggest that visual disinformation is determined by varying levels of modal richness and manipulative sophistication. Because manipulated visuals are processed differently on a psychological level, they have unique effects on citizens? behaviours and attitudes.