Theses and Dissertations


Tyler Hancock

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Adams, Frank

Committee Member

Breazeale, Michael

Committee Member

Lueg, Jason

Committee Member

Shanahan, Kevin

Committee Member

Allen, Laura

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Business


Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law


With the explosion of social media, consumers are gaining control in social reach and can utilize online platforms to create and share misleading information when doing so helps to meet an end. This dissertation, consisting of three separate essays, represents an attempt to address how misleading information is created, how it is disseminated, and how it can be eliminated. Essay One (Chapter 2) uses a mixed-method approach to explore the Dark Triad, proactivity, and vigilantism in driving self-created misleading information sharing. Additionally, this essay introduces a dual-process model of inoculation theory to the marketing and consumer literature that shows how consumers autoinoculate when building justification to engage in malicious behavior. This process includes both automatic and analytical components that initiate a Negative Cascade. Without a larger number of posts, these initial messages may be overlooked. However, herd inoculation can develop when a message begins to sway larger groups. Essay Two (Chapter 3) determines that authentic messages from the original poster are most believable and most likely to initiate a Negative Cascade. This confirmation through mere exposure can then initiate herd inoculation as it flows to other consumers and develops further credibility. The implicit bystander effect is active when in the presence of larger groups. Findings suggest herd inoculation may go unbroken since posters exposed to a positive counter-cascade are less likely to both participate in a forum and post positive messages. Essay Three (Chapter 4) shows that when a consumer shares a message that develops into a Negative Cascade, additional effort is required to halt the consumer herd inoculation. The studies uncover the need for an overt response from the original poster to stop future sharing of misleading information and the role of brand-enacted quarantines in the prevention of the autoinoculation of consumer vigilantes. This dissertation shows how one message can become a much bigger problem for a brand when misinformation spreads. Insights within the dissertation provide numerous outlets for future research and numerous tools and recommendations for both academics and practitioners that hope to understand how misleading information is created, disseminated, and can be eliminated.