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Belief in conspiracy theories: Looking beyond gullibility

Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. and Cichocka, Aleksandra (2019) Belief in conspiracy theories: Looking beyond gullibility. In: Forgas, J and Baumeister, R, eds. The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs. Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology . Routledge. ISBN 978-0-367-19014-9. (KAR id:74200)

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In this chapter, we consider the factors that attract people toward conspiracy theories and also consider whether or not belief in conspiracy theories is a sign of gullibility. We first review the framework of Douglas, Sutton, and Cichocka (2017), which explains that belief in conspiracy theories is driven by epistemic, existential, and social motives. In reviewing the literature on the psychology of conspiracy belief, we conclude that people who believe in conspiracy theories will not simply believe anything they hear. Instead, people appear to believe conspiracy theories that appeal to these three important psychological motives. Conspiracy believers can therefore not be dismissed as gullible and researchers should not characterize them as such. In the remainder of the chapter, we highlight some of the social consequences of conspiracy theories. To date, research reveals that while conspiracy theories may seem attractive to people when they are seeking to satisfy their psychological motives, unfortunately they may sometimes do more harm than good.

Item Type: Book section
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Karen Douglas
Date Deposited: 31 May 2019 12:01 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:04 UTC
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