Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Dan Richard

Second Advisor

Dr. Debbie Wang

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange


Radical violent extremist terrorism is a global issue that has existed for centuries and has been the cause of millions of deaths. Extremist organizations have learned to adapt and survive attempts at legal/military interdictions. One possible major element that allows for the survival of these radicalized organizations is the use of conspiracy theories within their online messages that are used to radicalize and recruit members to their cause. These conspiracy theories tend to elicit two types of messages: a quest for significance or a loss of significance. This study aims to observe how extremist organizations utilize conspiracy theories in their online messages to adapt to the standing of the organization (growth, height, and decline). This study will utilize a 2x3 non-experimental, correlational content analysis of historical documents using text-based algorithms via latent dirichlet allocation to examine the frequency of conspiracy theory usage (presence or absence) from radical Islamic (ISIS) and right-wing extremist groups (QAnon) used over time. There was no significant pattern between conspiracy theory usage and ISIS’s timeframe standing, X2(2) = 0.90, p = .32. The data from the QAnon Drops showed too many discrepancies among the post frequencies across different time frames so supplemental analyses were run to examine change in conspiracy theory use between the growth and height time frames as well as change in conspiracy theory theme over time. There was a significant pattern between conspiracy theory use and timeframe, X2(1)=10.95, p<.001. The themes of conspiracy theories appear to change over time, which may be attributed to historic events at the time. Future studies should aim to even the post frequencies and continue to expand upon this research to grasp the methodology of extremist organizations and their usage of conspiracy theories.