Understanding Conspiracy Theories

Karen M. Douglas, Joseph E. Uscinski, Robbie M. Sutton, Aleksandra Cichocka, Turkay Nefes, Chee Siang Ang, Farzin Deravi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scholarly efforts to understand conspiracy theories have grown significantly in recent years, and there is now a broad and interdisciplinary literature. In reviewing this body of work, we ask three specific questions. First, what factors are associated with conspiracy beliefs? Our review of the literature shows that conspiracy beliefs result from a range of psychological, political, and social factors. Next, how are conspiracy theories communicated? Here, we explain how conspiracy theories are shared among individuals and spread through traditional and social media platforms. Next, what are the societal risks and rewards associated with conspiracy theories? By focusing on politics and science, we argue that conspiracy theories do more harm than good. We conclude by suggesting several promising avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-35
Number of pages33
JournalPolitical Psychology
Volume40
Issue numberS1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Keywords

  • communication
  • conspiracy belief
  • conspiracy theories
  • politics
  • psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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