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Blaming a few bad apples to save a threatened barrel: The system-justifying function of conspiracy theories

Jolley, Daniel, Douglas, Karen, Sutton, Robbie M. (2018) Blaming a few bad apples to save a threatened barrel: The system-justifying function of conspiracy theories. Political Psychology, 39 (2). pp. 465-478. ISSN 0162-895X. E-ISSN 1467-9221. (doi:10.1111/pops.12404)

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pops.12404

Abstract

This research demonstrates that conspiracy theories – often represented as subversive alternatives to establishment narratives – may bolster, rather than undermine, support for the social status quo when its legitimacy is under threat. A pilot study (N = 98) found a positive relationship between conspiracy belief and satisfaction with the status quo. In Study 1 (N = 120), threatening (vs. affirming) the status quo in British society caused participants to endorse conspiracy theories. In Study 2 (N = 159), exposure to conspiracy theories increased satisfaction with the British social system after this had been experimentally threatened. In Study 3 (N = 109), this effect was mediated by the tendency for participants exposed (vs. not exposed) to conspiracy theories to attribute societal problems relatively more strongly to small groups of people rather than systemic causes. By blaming tragedies, disasters and social problems on the actions of a malign few, conspiracy theories can divert attention from

the inherent limitations of social systems.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/pops.12404
Uncontrolled keywords: conspiracy theories; system justification; system threat; beliefs
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Social Psychology
Depositing User: Karen Douglas
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2017 11:29 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2019 13:26 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/60488 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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