Belief in conspiracy theories: Gullibility or rational skepticism?

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Social Psychology of Gullibility
Subtitle of host publicationConspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs
EditorsJoseph P. Forgas, Roy Baumeister
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Chapter4
Pages319-332
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429512193
ISBN (Print)9780367187934
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2019

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van Prooijen, J. W. (2019). Belief in conspiracy theories: Gullibility or rational skepticism? In J. P. Forgas, & R. Baumeister (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs (pp. 319-332). Taylor and Francis Inc.. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429203787
van Prooijen, Jan Willem. / Belief in conspiracy theories : Gullibility or rational skepticism?. The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs. editor / Joseph P. Forgas ; Roy Baumeister. Taylor and Francis Inc., 2019. pp. 319-332
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van Prooijen, JW 2019, Belief in conspiracy theories: Gullibility or rational skepticism? in JP Forgas & R Baumeister (eds), The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs. Taylor and Francis Inc., pp. 319-332. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429203787

Belief in conspiracy theories : Gullibility or rational skepticism? / van Prooijen, Jan Willem.

The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs. ed. / Joseph P. Forgas; Roy Baumeister. Taylor and Francis Inc., 2019. p. 319-332.

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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van Prooijen JW. Belief in conspiracy theories: Gullibility or rational skepticism? In Forgas JP, Baumeister R, editors, The Social Psychology of Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, Fake News and Irrational Beliefs. Taylor and Francis Inc. 2019. p. 319-332 https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429203787