According to research published by the American Psychological Association, people may be inclined to believe in conspiracy theories because of certain personality traits and motivations. These include relying heavily on intuition, feeling antagonistic and superior to others, and perceiving threats in their environment. The study’s lead author, Shauna Bowes, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Emory University, says that the findings reveal a complex understanding of what motivates conspiracy theorists.
Shauna Bowes said,
“Conspiracy theorists are not all likely to be simple-minded, mentally unwell folks – a portrait which is routinely painted in popular culture. Instead, many turn to conspiracy theories to fulfill deprived motivational needs and make sense of distress and impairment.”
The research was published online in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
Bowes noted that previous research on conspiracy theorists had primarily focused on personality and motivation. In contrast, the current study aimed to examine these factors together, offering a more comprehensive account of why people believe in conspiracy theories.
The researchers analyzed data from 170 studies, which had a total of more than 158,000 participants, mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland. These studies measured participants’ motivations or personality traits related to conspiratorial thinking.
Overall, the researchers found that people are motivated to believe in conspiracy theories for two main reasons. One reason is a need to understand and feel safe in their environment. The other reason is a need to feel superior to other communities.
The study revealed that while many conspiracy theories offer clarity or reveal supposed “secret truths” about confusing events, a need for closure or a sense of control are not the primary motivators for endorsing conspiracy theories. Instead, the researchers discovered that social relationships played a more significant role in motivating people to believe in specific conspiracy theories. For example, those who perceived social threats were more likely to believe in events-based conspiracy theories, such as the theory that the U.S. government planned the September 11 terrorist attacks, rather than an abstract theory suggesting that governments in general plan to harm their citizens to retain power.
“These results largely map onto a recent theoretical framework advancing that social identity motives may give rise to being drawn to the content of a conspiracy theory, whereas people who are motivated by a desire to feel unique are more likely to believe in general conspiracy theories about how the world works.”
The researchers discovered that individuals with certain personality traits, such as a sense of animosity towards others and high levels of paranoia, were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. Those who had a strong belief in such theories were also more prone to being insecure, paranoid, emotionally volatile, impulsive, suspicious, withdrawn, manipulative, egocentric, and eccentric.
The Big Five personality traits, which include extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism, had a weaker relationship with conspiratorial thinking, although the researchers stated that this does not imply that general personality traits are not related to a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories.
In-Article Image CreditsConspiracy man says don't believe the lies you are told via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 29, 2021
Featured Image CreditConspiracy man says don't believe the lies you are told via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 29, 2021