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Deceptive clickbaits in the relevance-theoretic lens

Maria Jodłowiec
Published: 6 September 2022

Abstract: This paper explores the nature of clickbaiting as a form of viral journalism from a relevance-theoretic perspective (Sperber and Wilson 1995; Wilson and Sperber 2012). The focus is on deceptive clickbaits, i.e., manipulative internet headlines whose interpretation, based on the way they are worded, leads to opening an information gap, thus luring the reader into clicking on the link provided with a view to increasing the website traffic. It is highlighted that such headlines exploit linguistic underdeterminacy, and unlike felicitous headlines, which provide an accurate representation of the article content and therefore play the role of relevance optimizers (Dor 2003), deceptive clickbaits induce recipients to generate interpretations which arouse their intense curiosity but are ultimately incompatible with the article’s content. The paper shows how relevance theory can explain the interpretation bias that the reader of deceptive clickbaits falls prey to and advances the idea that there is affinity in this respect between deceptive clickbaits and jokes.
Keywords: theoretic / Wilson / Sperber / deceptive clickbaits / optimizers / headlines / reader / relevance

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