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Conspiracy theories: why they are believed and how they can be challenged

Sebalo, Ivan, Ball, Linden J., Marsh, John E., Morley, Andy M., Richardson, Beth H., Taylor, Paul J., Threadgold, Emma (2023) Conspiracy theories: why they are believed and how they can be challenged. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 35 (4). pp. 383-400. ISSN 2044-592X. (doi:10.1080/20445911.2023.2198064) (KAR id:101019)


The current study aimed: (i) to identify personal characteristics associated with endorsing conspiracy theories; and (ii) to investigate methods for dispelling conspiracy beliefs. Participants were shown a single conspiracy theory and they also completed questionnaires about their reasoning skills, types of information processing (System 1 vs. System 2), endorsement of paranormal beliefs, locus of control and pattern perception. To challenge the endorsement of the conspiracy, participants read either: (i) neutral information; (ii) a critical analysis of the vignette; (iii) a critical analysis of the vignette with discussion of realistic consequences; or (iv) a critical analysis of the vignette with “feeling of control” priming. Only addressing the consequences of the conspiracy theory decreased its endorsement. Furthermore, only type of information processing and belief in paranormal phenomena, were associated with endorsement of the conspiracy. These findings are discussed in relation to previous studies and theories of conspiratorial ideation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/20445911.2023.2198064
Uncontrolled keywords: Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2023 15:29 UTC
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 10:12 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Sebalo, Ivan.

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