Perceived loss of control may lead to an increase in conspiracy theories, study finds

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Studies of North Macedonians immediately after their country was renamed and of U.S. residents affected by a series of tornadoes showed that people who felt a loss of control over important events tended to increase their beliefs in conspiracy theories. The study was published in Psihologija.

Conspiracy theories are generally thought of as “implausible claims that significant events are being caused by malevolent clandestine groups.” Claims of these “theories” typically run counter to explanations of events provided by relevant authorities and scientists. Belief in conspiracy theories tends to be associated with various psychological and social factors.

Research studies indicate that overall beliefs in conspiracy theories have likely not changed much in recent history, but that it is only the specific conspiracy “theories” that people believe in that have changed. Nonetheless, beliefs in conspiracy theories attract a lot of research attention and much of that attention is focused on explaining the psychological mechanisms underpinning such beliefs.

One possible explanation of why people believe in conspiracy theories proposes that conspiracy theory beliefs “help those who have lost a sense of personal control to restore their worldview that existence is non-random, ordered and structured”.

However, existing research has not definitely established the link between the sense of personal control and beliefs in conspiracy theories. Ana Stojanov and her colleagues from New Zealand used the opportunity provided by two large-scale events in different parts of the world to study the possible link between the perceived lack of control over events and beliefs in conspiracy theories.

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1 comment

  1. This may explain to some extent what makes people vulnerable to conspiracy theories. But social media used for propaganda, persuasion and indoctrination is also a key factor.

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