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Illinois State Student Proposes Research Into Political Smear Campaigns

This story was written by Chelsea Peck, The Daily Vidette

After about a year of work, Marat Abdukarimov presented his thesis proposal in psychology yesterday morning in DeGarmo Hall.

His thesis, entitled, "Stigma-by-association, prejudice and negation: Why Smear Campaigns Work?" described measures to show participants' instant prejudices.

A smear campaign is any activity that can harm an individual's reputation.

"This thesis is about potential processes that work behind smear campaigns that are behind politics," Abdukarimov said. "It involves how people comprehend messages in smear campaigns and how they are effective."

Dr. Glenn Reeder was the thesis committee chair. The committee included professors of psychology Dr. John Pryor and Dr. Scott Jordan.

Abdukarimov wants to measure how participants show prejudices towards political candidates with two experiments. The first would involve showing the participants pictures and judging them.

The second experiment would involve showing participants a picture of a candidate with a question and the candidate's answer. The questions would be randomly chosen as either positive or negative, not based on the candidate's background.

"The question could be something like 'do they have a problem with alcohol' or 'do you like golf?'" Abdukarimov said. "I want to check whether the candidate who is asked negative questions and denies the claims will be less favorable compared to candidates asked positive questions."

"The connection between the first study and second study are to find characteristics that are stigmatized to bring to the second study," Pryor said.

The participants will be asked to recall the candidates and the answers to their questions. Abdukarimov predicts the candidates who were asked negative questions would be seen as negative compared to candidates who were asked positive questions but answered negatively.

There will also be a candidate evaluation form given to half of the participants before and half after the second experiment. The evaluation will include the candidate's picture, name and two questions such as "How much do you like the candidates?" and "How qualified are the candidates?"

"I'm not in social psychology so I had to teach myself as I went with the literature reviews. I'm currently learning more about this but since this hasn't been tested I do not know how it would result," Abdukarimov said.

Abdukarimov received positive reactions from the committee on his proposal.

"I'm a fan of this project. I think the method is great and if you find things it will be a big deal," Jordan said.

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