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Across three studies, we examined the role of self-evaluation in predicting conspiracy beliefs. Previous research linked the endorsement of conspiracy theories to low self-esteem. We propose that conspiracy theories should rather be appealing to individuals with exaggerated feelings of self-love, such as narcissists, due to their paranoid tendencies. In Study 1 general conspiracist beliefs were predicted by high individual narcissism but low self-esteem. Study 2 demonstrated that these effects were differentially mediated by paranoid thoughts, and independent of the effects of collective narcissism. Individual narcissism predicted generalized conspiracist beliefs, regardless of the conspiracy theories implicating in-group or out-group members, while collective narcissism predicted belief in out-group but not in-group conspiracies. Study 3 replicated the effects of individual narcissism and self-esteem on the endorsement of various specific conspiracy theories and demonstrated that the negative effect of self-esteem was largely accounted for by the general negativity towards humans associated with low self-esteem.
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RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 1
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Does self-love or self-hate predict conspiracy beliefs?
Narcissism, self-esteem and the endorsement of conspiracy theories
Aleksandra Cichocka
University of Kent
Marta Marchlewska
University of Warsaw
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala
Goldsmiths, University of London
Author note
Aleksandra Cichocka, School of Psychology, University of Kent, UK. Marta Marchlewska,
Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland. Agnieszka Golec de Zavala,
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. Preparation of this article
was supported by the funds of the Polish National Science Centre, awarded with the decision
number DEC-2011/01/B/HS6/04637. The authors would like to thank Rael Dawtry, Kristof
Dhont, Karen Douglas, Robbie Sutton, and Giacomo Marchesi. Please direct correspondence
to Aleksandra Cichocka, University of Kent, Keynes College, CT2 7NZ, Canterbury, UK. E-
mail: a.k.cichocka@kent.ac.uk
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 2
Abstract
Across three studies, we examined the role of self-evaluation in predicting conspiracy
beliefs. Previous research linked the endorsement of conspiracy theories to low self-esteem.
We propose that conspiracy theories should rather be appealing to individuals with
exaggerated feelings of self-love, such as narcissists, due to their paranoid tendencies. In
Study 1 general conspiracist beliefs were predicted by high individual narcissism but low
self-esteem. Study 2 demonstrated that these effects were differentially mediated by paranoid
thoughts, and independent of the effects of collective narcissism. Individual narcissism
predicted generalized conspiracist beliefs, regardless of the conspiracy theories implicating
in-group or out-group members, while collective narcissism predicted belief in out-group but
not in-group conspiracies. Study 3 replicated the effects of individual narcissism and self-
esteem on the endorsement of various specific conspiracy theories and demonstrated that the
negative effect of self-esteem was largely accounted for by the general negativity towards
humans associated with low self-esteem.
Keywords: conspiracy theories, self-esteem, narcissism, collective narcissism, paranoia
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 3
Does self-love or self-hate predict conspiracy beliefs?
Narcissism, self-esteem and the endorsement of conspiracy theories
Although conspiracy theories are often treated as harmless entertainment, they can
have serious societal consequences (Douglas, Sutton, Jolley, & Wood, 2015). For example,
exposure to conspiracy theories can decrease political engagement or pro-environmental
behavior (Jolley & Douglas, 2014a; 2014b). If widespread conspiracy theories affect the
society, then it seems important to understand psychological factors underlying conspiracy
beliefs. One prevalent hypothesis in this line of inquiry has been that conspiracy theories are
usually endorsed by individuals who show poor psychological adjustment or are in some way
socially disadvantaged. Conspiracy beliefs have been linked to powerlessness (Abalakina-
Paap, Stephan, Craig, & Gregory, 1999), feelings of relative deprivation (Bilewicz,
Winiewski, Kofta, & Wójcik, 2013), anomie (Abalakina-Paap et al., 1999; Imhoff & Bruder,
2014), lack of personal control (Whitson & Galinsky, 2008; cf. Bruder, Haffke, Neave,
Nouripanah, & Imhoff, 2013), uncertainty (van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2012; Whitson,
Galinsky, & Kay, 2015), and being a member of a disadvantaged group (Abalkina-Paap et al.,
1999; Crocker, Luhtanen, Broadnax, & Blaine, 1999; Goertzel, 1994). It has been theorized
that belief in others´ conspiratorial actions that unfairly undermine one’s own efforts, can
serve to protect feelings of self-worth (Robins & Post, 1997).
In line with this reasoning, Abalkina-Paap and colleagues (1999) proposed that
conspiracy beliefs should be endorsed by people with low self-esteem because this permits
them to blame others for their problems” (p. 644). So far, however, evidence linking
conspiracy beliefs to low self-esteem remains inconsistent. Low self-esteem was only a
marginally significant predictor of various conspiracy beliefs in the study by Abalkina-Paap
and colleagues (1999). In other studies, low self-esteem significantly predicted endorsement
of some conspiracy theories (e.g., concerning the London bombings of July 7, 2005, Swami
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 4
et al., 2011; see also Swami & Furnham, 2012) but not others (e.g., concerning conspiratorial
actions of Jews, Swami, 2012; see also Crocker et al., 1999; Stieger, Gumhalter, Tran,
Voracek, & Swami, 2013). Similarly, general conspiracist ideation was negatively correlated
with self-esteem in a study by Stieger and colleagues (2013; although the correlation was
significant only in the first wave of measurement) but this relationship was weaker and non-
significant in a study by Swami (2012).
We suggest that linking conspiracy beliefs to low self-esteem could have been
premature. There are in fact reasons to believe that the endorsement of conspiracy theories
might be more strongly associated with excessively positive view of the self. Convictions
about others malevolent intentions have been linked to individual narcissism, which is
characterised by a pattern of grandiosity accompanied by the need for external validation
(Freud, 1914/2012; Fromm, 1964/2010; Raskin & Terry, 1988; Robins & Post, 1997; Wulff,
1987). Narcissists tend to believe they are unique and special compared to other people
(Reynolds & Lejuez, 2011) but, at the same time, they are excessively preoccupied with how
others see them (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001; Horvath & Morf, 2009). Research shows that
such heightened self-reference and awareness of others perceptions can foster paranoiaa
tendency to perceive others’ actions as intentionally malicious (Feningsten & Vanable, 1992;
see Cameron, 1959; Cicero & Kerns, 2011; Raskin & Terry, 1988). Paranoia has been
identified as a robust predictor of conspiracy beliefs, which correspond to a more specific
conviction that a major political or social event is intentionally caused by “a secret plot by a
covert alliance of powerful individuals or organizations” (Douglas & Suttton, 2011, p. 3; e.g.,
Bruder et al., 2013; Darwin, Neale, & Holmes, 2011; Grzesiak-Feldman, 2015; Kramer &
Schaffer, 2014; Wilson & Rose, 2014). Melley (2002) suggested that it is the intentionality
bias that makes the paranoid prone to perceive significant events as being caused by
conspiracies. By integrating these perspectives, we predict that narcissists should be
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 5
especially likely to endorse conspiracy theories, as due to their sensitivity to others’
perceptions they show paranoid tendencies.
Importantly, the propositions that conspiracy beliefs are related to low self-esteem and
to high individual narcissism are not necessarily contradictory. In fact, one reason for the
inconsistent link between self-esteem and conspiracy beliefs, revealed by previous studies,
could be that typical measures of self-esteem do not distinguish between self-evaluation that
is narcissistic versus secure (i.e., without the defensive component captured by narcissism;
Horney, 1939; Kernis, 2003; Paulhus, Robins, Trzesniewski, & Tracy, 2004). Narcissistic and
secure self-esteem overlap in favourable self-evaluation but when they are considered in the
same regression analysis, we can observe their unique effects (Paulhus et al., 2004). For
example, previous research demonstrated that low self-esteem becomes a predictor of
antisocial behaviour only when the variance it shares with individual narcissism is accounted
for. Moreover, when both variables are considered, the effects of narcissism on antisocial
behaviour tend to significantly strengthen (Locke, 2009; Paulhus et al., 2004). Such a pattern
of results indicates a suppression effect, in which inclusion of a suppressor variable in the
analyses “increases the predictive validity of another variable” (Conger, 1974, pp. 36–37;
MacKinnon, Krull, & Lockwood, 2000). Therefore, to fully examine the link between
conspiracy beliefs and self-evaluation, both narcissism and self-esteem should be considered.
Overview
The aim of the current research is to shed light on the role of individual narcissism
and self-esteem in predicting conspiracy beliefs. In three studies we test the hypothesis that
when the overlap between self-esteem and individual narcissism is controlled for, conspiracy
beliefs will be predicted by high individual narcissism and low self-esteem. We also examine
whether the effects of individual narcissism versus self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs are
mediated by paranoid ideation (Study 2) or whether they can be accounted for by a general
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 6
negativity towards humans (Study 3). In addition, given that conspiracy theories often
presume an intergroup dimension (Kofta & Sędek, 2005; van Prooijen & van Lange, 2014),
in Study 2 we examine whether the effects differ depending on the conspiracy theories
involving in-group or out-group members. In all studies, we report how we determined our
sample size, all data exclusions, all manipulations, and all measures.
Study 1
In Study 1 we tested the hypothesis that conspiracy beliefs would be predicted by high
individual narcissism but low self-esteem. We expected self-esteem and individual narcissism
to work as mutual suppressors in predicting conspiracy beliefsconsidering both aspects of
self-evaluation together should strengthen their initial relationships with conspiracy beliefs.
Method
Participants and procedure. We aimed to collect data from at least 200 Mturk
workers. For consistency, we asked only for workers located in the US. The survey was
completed by 202 participants
1
, 74 women, 128 men, aged 18-72 (M=31.27, SD=10.46).
Most participants reported having a university degree (n=124) and White (non-Hispanic) as
their ethnicity (n=152)
2
. Participants filled out measures of self-esteem, individual narcissism
and conspiracy beliefs presented (counterbalanced).
Measures.
1
In all studies, only completed surveys were analyzed. Study 1 included an attention check.
Excluding data from 13 participants who failed it did not affect the results.
2
None of the demographic variables was associated with conspiracy beliefs in Study 1. In
Studies 2 and 3 ethnic minorities endorsed conspiracy theories more strongly than Whites.
Unless stated otherwise, the pattern of results remained similar when we adjusted for
demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, education in Studies 1 and 2; age, gender, ethnicity in
Study 3) in the regression analyses.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 7
Conspiracy beliefs were measured with the 15 item Generic Conspiracist Beliefs
Scale (Brotherton, French, & Pickering, 2013). Participants were asked to what extent they
agree with statements such as “New and advanced technology which would harm current
industry is being suppressed. on a scale from 1=definitely not true to 5=definitely true,
α=.93, M=2.66, SD=0.86.
Self-esteem was measured with Rosenberg’s (1965) self-esteem scale. Participants
responded to 10 items on a scale from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree, α=.93,
M=3.82, SD=0.89.
Individual narcissism was measured with a simplified version (Ang & Yusof, 2006)
of the 40-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Emmons, 1987; Raskin & Hall, 1979).
Participants rated to what extent statements representing narcissistic traits described them on
a scale from 1=not at all like me to 5=very much like me, α=.96, M=2.79, SD=0.70.
Results
Zero-order correlations. Individual narcissism was significantly positively
correlated with self-esteem, r(200)=.41[.27, .53]
3
, p<.001, and conspiracy beliefs,
r(200)=.24[.10, .38], p<.001. The correlation between conspiracy beliefs and self-esteem was
non-significant, r(200)= -.08[-.22, .07], p=.29.
Self-esteem and individual narcissism as predictors of conspiracy beliefs. In order
to test the suppression hypothesis, we included self-esteem and individual narcissism together
as predictors of conspiracy beliefs in a regression model. When the overlap between
individual narcissism and self-esteem was adjusted for, the effect of narcissism on conspiracy
beliefs remained positive and significant, B=0.41[0.23, 0.57], SE=0.09, β=.33, p<.001, while
3
Across all manuscript, square brackets include 95% bootstrapped bias-corrected confidence
intervals (10,000 resamples).
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 8
the effect of self-esteem became significantly negative, B= -0.20 [-0.34, -0.06], SE=0.07, β= -
.21, p=.01; F(2, 199)=10.55, p<.001, R
2
=.10.
We then tested whether the inclusion of narcissism in the regression model increased
the predictive validity of self-esteem resulting in a suppression effect. We used Mplus7
(Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2012). Program defaults were used for the estimator and treatment
of missing data (the same settings were used for all path analyses). Bootstrapping analysis
confirmed a significant suppressing effect of narcissism, standardized estimate=.13 [0.06,
0.21], p<.001, indicating that the effect of self-esteem strengthened when narcissism was
included in the model. We also tested whether inclusion of self-esteem in the model increased
the predictive validity of narcissism. Bootstrapping analysis confirmed a significant
suppressing effect of self-esteem, standardized estimate= -.09[-.15, -.02], p=.01, indicating
that the positive effect of narcissism strengthened when self-esteem was included in the
model (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Individual narcissism and self-esteem predicting conspiracy beliefs across all
studies. Solid lines indicate standardized regression coefficients. Dashed lines indicate
bivariate correlations. S
1
= Study 1, S
2
= Study 2, S
3
= Study 3.
Narcissism
Self-esteem
Conspiracy
beliefs
S
1
= .41***
S
2
= .53***
S
3
= .28***
S
1
= .24***, S
2
= .25***, S
3
= .33***
S
1
= -.08, S
2
= .05, S
3
= .01
S
1
=.33***, S
2
=.29***, S
3
=.35***
S
1
= -.21**, S
2
= -.12
+
, S
3
= -.09*
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 9
+
p < .10. * p < .05. ** p < .01.*** p < .001.
Discussion
The results of Study 1 provide initial support for our hypothesis that adjusting for the
overlap between self-esteem and individual narcissism reveals the opposite relationships
these variables have with belief in conspiracy theories. When the variance shared between
these variables was accounted for, the negative relationship between self-esteem and
conspiracy beliefs became significant, while the positive relationship between individual
narcissism and conspiracy beliefs strengthened. Thus, only with individual narcissism
partialled out did low self-esteem predict conspiracy beliefs.
Study 2
In Study 2 we examined whether the effects of high individual narcissism and low
self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs are mediated by paranoid thought. We expected high
individual narcissism and low self-esteem to be associated with paranoia which should
further foster conspiracist ideation. Moreover, because conspiracy theories often refer to
malevolent actions of groups (e.g., Kofta & Sędek, 2005), we wanted to distinguish whether
it is a narcissistic image of the self or the group that predicts the endorsement of conspiracy
theories. Previous research has linked conspiracy beliefs to collective narcissismbelief in-
group’s greatness associated with a conviction that others do not appreciate the in-group
enough (Golec de Zavala, Cichocka, Eidelson, & Jayawickreme, 2009).
Collective narcissism seems to foster beliefs in conspiratorial intentions of out-group
members. For example, Polish national collective narcissism predicted the endorsement of
conspiracy stereotypes of Jews (Golec de Zavala & Cichocka, 2012). Similarly, American
collective narcissism predicted the endorsement of conspiracy theories involving foreign
governments but not the American government (Cichocka, Golec de Zavala, Marchlewska, &
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 10
Olechowski, 2015). Presumably, due to their high concern with the in-group image, collective
narcissists are less likely to endorse conspiracy theories involving members of their in-group.
Because individual and collective narcissism tend to be positively correlated (Golec
de Zavala et al., 2009; Golec de Zavala, Cichocka, & Iskra-Golec, 2013), in Study 2 we
sought to demonstrate the unique effect of individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs over
and above collective narcissism. Moreover, because individual narcissists should be less
concerned with the in-group image, we expected individual narcissism to predict
endorsement of conspiracy theories regardless of these theories implicating members of in-
groups or out-groups.
Method
Participants and procedure. We aimed to collect data from at least 275 Mturk
workers located in the US. The survey was completed by 276 participants. Because Study 2
examined effects for beliefs of intergroup conspiracies, we excluded data from participants
who reported the nationality they most identify with as other than American or mixed
American (n=7). The final sample included 269 participants, 144 women, 124 men (1
unknown), aged 18-79 (M=32.81, SD=12.54), 161 with a university degree, 196 White (non-
Hispanic).
First, participants completed measures of individual and collective narcissism and
self-esteem (counterbalanced)
4
. Afterwards, they completed a paranoid thought scale. Finally,
they were randomly assigned to complete one of two versions of the conspiracy beliefs scale.
In the in-group version (n=140) they were asked to think about the American government and
answer questions about belief in the government’s conspiratorial actions. In the out-group
4
Study 2 included a single item measure of inclusion of the in-group in the self (Tropp &
Wright, 2001). When we included this measure as a covariate in the regression analyses, the
pattern of results remained similar.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 11
version (n=129) they were asked to think about foreign governments and answer a similar set
of questions but in relation to conspiratorial actions of foreign governments (see
Supplement).
Measures.
Conspiracy beliefs were measured with 11 items based on the Generic Conspiracist
Beliefs Scale (Brotherton et al., 2013) used in Study 1. Participants first read instructions
indicating that they will rate statements in relation to the American government or foreign
governments on a scale from 1=definitely not true to 5=definitely true. Items were chosen
based on whether they could apply to own versus foreign governments, e.g., “Foreign
governments [the American government] use[s] people as patsies to hide involvement in
criminal activity”, α=.91, M=2.95, SD=0.85.
Self-esteem was measured with the single-item self-esteem measure (Robins, Hendin,
& Trzesniewski, 2001). Participants indicated whether the statement “I have high self-
esteem” applies to them on a scale from 1=not very true of me to 7=very true of me, M=4.50,
SD=1.78.
Individual narcissism was measured as in Study 1, α=.95, M=2.77, SD=0.69.
Collective narcissism was measured with the 5-item Collective Narcissism Scale
(Golec de Zavala, Cichocka, & Bilewicz, 2013). Participants responded to items measuring
their sentiments towards their national group (e.g., “Americans deserve special treatment”) on
a scale from 1=definitely disagree to 6=definitely agree, α=.88, M=2.58, SD=1.17.
Paranoid thought was measured with the 20-item Paranoia Scale (Fenigstein &
Vanable, 1992). Participants were asked to respond to each item (e.g., “Someone has it in for
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 12
me) on a scale from 1=not at all applicable to me to 5=extremely applicable to me, α=.92,
M=2.35, SD=0.76.
Results
Zero-order correlations. Self-esteem and the two forms of narcissism were all
significantly positively correlated (Table 1). Conspiracy beliefs were significantly positively
correlated with individual and collective narcissism (p=.04) and paranoid thought, and
positively although not-significantly (p=.47) correlated with self-esteem. Paranoid thought
was significantly positively correlated with individual narcissism (p=.004), significantly
negatively with self-esteem, and marginally positively with collective narcissism (p=.08).
Table 1
Zero-order Correlations [and 95% Confidence Intervals] between Continuous Variables
(Study 2)
Measure
1
2
3
4
1. Self-esteem
2. Individual narcissism
3. Collective narcissism
-
.53***
[.42, .63]
.22***
[.08, .35]
-
.35***
[.24, .46]
-
4. Paranoid thought
-.30**
[-.41, -.18]
.18***
[.05, .30]
.11
+
[-.02, .23]
-
5. Conspiracy beliefs
.05
[-.08, .17]
.25***
[.12, .37]
.13*
[-.003, .25]
.37***
[.27, .47]
+
p < .10. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 13
Self-esteem and individual narcissism as predictors of conspiracy beliefs. We
examined self-esteem and individual narcissism as predictors of conspiracy beliefs by
including both of them in the regression analysis as predictors, adjusting for the content of
conspiracies (coded -1=own, 1=foreign government[s]). The model was significant, F(3,
263)=7.48, p<.001, R
2
=.08. When the overlap between individual narcissism and self-esteem
was adjusted for, individual narcissism remained a positive predictor of conspiracy beliefs,
B=0.35[0.18, 0.53], SE=0.09, β=.29, p<.001, while self-esteem became a negative,
marginally significant, predictor of conspiracy beliefs, B= -0.06[-0.12, 0.01], SE=0.03, β= -
.12, p=.09
5
. Bootstrapping analysis in MPlus7 confirmed a significant suppression effects via
individual narcissism, standardized estimate=.16[.08, .24], p<.001, indicating that the effect
of self-esteem strengthened when individual narcissism was included in the model. The
indirect effect via self-esteem was marginally significant, standardized estimate= -.06[-0.14,
0.01], p=.08, indicating that although the positive effect of individual narcissism on
conspiracy beliefs remained significant it did not strengthen significantly when self-esteem
was included in the model. The pattern of results remained similar when we adjusted for
collective narcissism.
We then examined whether these opposing relationships would be differentially
mediated via paranoid thought. In MPlus7 we tested a path model with self-esteem and
individual narcissism as predictors (both included in the model command), conspiracy beliefs
as the outcome, paranoid thought as a mediator, and condition as a covariate (Figure 2).
5
When we included demographics as covariates the negative effect for self-esteem became
significant, B= -0.07, SE=0.04, β= -.16, p=.04.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 14
Figure 2. Indirect effect of individual narcissism and self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs via
paranoid thought (Study 2). Entries are standardized coefficients. Paths for the covariate
(scale version) are not presented in the model for simplicity.
+
p < .10. *** p < .001.
Individual narcissism was a significant positive predictor of paranoia, B=0.51[0.38,
0.65], SE=0.07, β=.47, p<.001, which was in turn a positive predictor of conspiracy beliefs,
B=0.42[0.28, 0.56], SE=0.07, β=.37, p<.001. Moreover, when paranoia was included as a
mediator, the positive effect of individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs became weaker
and marginally significant, B=0.15[-0.03, 0.33], SE=0.09, β=.12, p=.09. The indirect effect of
individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs via paranoia was significant, with the
standardized estimate=.17[.10, .25], p<.001.
Self-esteem was a significant negative predictor of paranoia, B= -0.24[-0.29, -0.19],
SE=0.03, β= -.56, p<.001. When paranoia was included as a mediator, the effect of self-
esteem on conspiracy beliefs became positive and non-significant, B=0.05[-0.02, 0.12],
SE=0.04, β=.10, p=.20. The indirect effect of self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs via paranoia
was significant and negative, with the standardized estimate= -0.21[-0.29, -0.13], p<.001. The
Paranoid
thought
0.47***
-0.56***
Narcissism
Self-esteem
Conspiracy
beliefs
.10
.37***
.54***
.12
+
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 15
indirect effects were not conditional on the content of conspiracy theories and remained
significant when we adjusted for collective narcissism.
Tests of alternative models revealed a significant, yet smaller, indirect effect of
individual narcissism on paranoia via conspiracy beliefs, standardized estimate=.09[.04, .14],
p=.001, and a non-significant effect of self-esteem on paranoia via conspiracy beliefs= -.03[-
.07, .01], p=.10. Both the effects of paranoia on conspiracy beliefs via narcissism=.02[-.01,
.05], p=.17, and via self-esteem= -.03[-.08, .02], p=.22, were non-significant.
Individual and collective narcissism as predictors of in-group versus out-group
conspiracy beliefs. Finally, we checked whether the effects of collective and individual
narcissism, as well as self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs were dependent on the conspiracy
content. In a regression analysis we included the conspiracy content, collective narcissism,
individual narcissism and self-esteem, and three two-way interactions of conspiracy content
with the continuous predictors. The whole model was significant, F(7, 259)=4.31, p<.001,
R
2
=.10. Conspiracy content moderated only the effects of collective narcissism on conspiracy
beliefs, B=0.11[0.01, 0.20], SE=0.05, β=.15, p=.02. Simple slopes analysis indicated that
collective narcissism was positively associated with conspiracy beliefs in the out-group
conspiracies condition, B=0.16[0.01, 0.30], SE=0.07, β=.22, p=.03, and negatively, but not
significantly, in the in-group conspiracies condition, B= -0.06[-0.19, 0.07], SE=0.06, β= -
0.09, p=.30. The interactions between individual narcissism and conspiracy content, B= -
0.11[-0.30, 0.09], SE=0.09, β= -.09, p=.23, and between self-esteem and conspiracy content,
B= -0.02[-0.08, 0.04], SE=0.03, β= -.04, p=.54, were non-significant
6
. When we adjusted for
paranoid thought, the pattern of results remained the same. We also tested whether the effect
6
When individual interactions are included in the model, the interaction of collective
narcissism and content is marginally significant, B=0.08, SE=0.04, β=.11, p=.07, while the
other two interactions remain non-significant, both βs= -.06, ps>.33.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 16
of collective narcissism on conspiracy beliefs was mediated by paranoid thought but this
effect was non-significant and was not conditional on the content of conspiracies.
Discussion
Study 2 corroborated the results of Study 1 by demonstrating that individual
narcissism suppresses the link between self-esteem and conspiracy beliefs. Self-esteem alone
was not significantly correlated with conspiracy beliefs, but it became a marginally
significant negative predictor of conspiracy beliefs when its overlap with individual
narcissism was adjusted for. Individual narcissism was significantly positively correlated with
conspiracy beliefs and this effect remained significant when we adjusted for self-esteem.
Study 2 also demonstrated that paranoid thought was associated with high individual
narcissism but low self-esteem. Moreover, paranoid thought differentially mediated the
relationship between conspiracy beliefs and these two types of self-evaluation and these
effects were larger than those of competing indirect effects models.
Finally, Study 2 revealed that individual narcissism predicted conspiracy beliefs even
when adjusting for its overlap with collective narcissism. The effect of individual narcissism
on the endorsement of conspiracy theories was not moderated by whether these theories
involved own versus foreign governments, while collective narcissism significantly predicted
only the endorsement of conspiracy theories about foreign governments (replicating previous
research; Cichocka et al., 2015).
Study 3
As in Study 1, in Study 2 individual narcissism was a significant predictor of
conspiracy belief. However, in Study 2 the negative effect of self-esteem on conspiracy
beliefs was weaker than in Study 1 and only marginally significant. We therefore sought to
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 17
replicate the suppression effect with the use of a larger sample of at least 500 participants,
which should allow for detecting even small indirect effects with the use of bias-corrected
bootstrapping (assuming power of .80; Fritz & MacKinnon, 2007). Moreover, we tested the
robustness of our findings by implementing a different measure of conspiracy beliefs. While
in Studies 1 and 2 we measured generic conspiracist ideation (Brotherton et al., 2013), in
Study 3 we asked participants about specific conspiracy theories (Douglas, Sutton, Callan,
Dawtry, & Harvey, in press). Finally, we examined whether the effects of narcissism and
self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs can be accounted for by generalized negative opinions
about people (see Abalkina-Paap et al., 1999; Douglas & Stutton, 2011)
7
. Hence, we included
a measure of humanity esteem (Luke & Maio, 2009), which captures a general favorable or
unfavorable evaluation of humanity” (p. 592).
Method
Participants and procedure. We aimed to collect data from 510 Mturk workers
located in the US. The survey was completed by 516 participants, 310 women, 206 men, aged
18-75 (M=35.32, SD=13.10), 387 White (non-Hispanic). Participants filled out measures of
self-esteem, individual narcissism, conspiracy beliefs and humanity esteem
(counterbalanced).
8
Measures.
Conspiracy beliefs were measured with a 7-item Conspiracist Beliefs Scale (Douglas
et al., in press). Participants were asked to what extent they agree with a series of statements
about well-known conspiracy theories, e.g., The American moon landings were faked.” on a
scale from 1=strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree, α=.82, M=2.47, SD=1.20.
7
We are grateful to an anonymous Reviewer for this suggestion.
8
Study 3 also included measures of ideology and prejudice for purposes of a different
project.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 18
Self-esteem was measured as in Study 1, α=.93, M=3.79, SD=0.92.
Individual narcissism was measured with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory
(Raskin & Hall, 1979). Participants were presented with 40 pairs of diagnostic and non-
diagnostic items and were asked to choose the ones that describe them best, α=.88, M=.30,
SD=.19.
Humanity esteem was measured with the 10-item Humanity-Esteem Scale (e.g., I
take a positive attitude toward humanity”; Luke & Maio, 2009). Participants indicated to
what extent they agree with the statements on a scale from 1=strongly disagree to 7=strongly
agree, α=.88, M=5.17, SD=1.07.
Results
Zero-order correlations. Self-esteem was significantly positively correlated with
individual narcissism and humanity esteem. Humanity esteem was unrelated to narcissism,
p=.68. Conspiracy beliefs were significantly positively correlated with individual narcissism
and not significantly with self-esteem, p=.78. Conspiracy beliefs were significantly
negatively correlated with humanity esteem (Table 2).
Table 2
Zero-order Correlations [and 95% Confidence Intervals] between Continuous Variables
(Study 3)
1
2
3
1. Self-esteem
-
2. Individual narcissism
.28***
-
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 19
[.20, .36]
3. Humanity esteem
.47***
[.39, .54]
-.02
[-.11, .08]
-
4. Conspiracy beliefs
.01
[-.07, .09]
.33***
[.25, .40]
-.18***
[-.26, -.10]
*** p < .001.
Self-esteem and individual narcissism as predictors of conspiracy beliefs. We first
tested for a suppression effect. When the overlap between individual narcissism and self-
esteem was adjusted for, the effect of individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs remained
positive and significant, B=2.24[1.68, 2.84], SE=0.28, β=.35, p<.001, while the effect of self-
esteem became significantly negative, B= -0.11[-0.22, -0.01], SE=0.06, β= -.09, p=.049; F(2,
513)=32.78, p<.001, R
2
=.11. Bootstrapping analysis confirmed a significant suppressing
effect of individual narcissism, standardized estimate=.10[0.06, 0.13], p<.001, indicating that
the effect of self-esteem strengthened when narcissism was included in the model.
Bootstrapping analysis also confirmed a significant suppressing effect of self-esteem,
standardized estimate= -.02[-0.05, -0.001], p=.045, indicating that the positive effect of
narcissism strengthened when self-esteem was included in the model.
We then examined whether these opposing relationships are accounted for by
humanity esteem by testing a path model in Mplus7 with self-esteem and individual
narcissism as predictors (included in the model command), conspiracy beliefs as the outcome,
and examining the indirect effect of humanity esteem. Individual narcissism was a significant
negative predictor of humanity esteem, B= -0.92[-1.41, -0.46], SE=0.24, β= -.16, p<.001,
which was a negative predictor of conspiracy beliefs, B= -0.20[-0.31, -0.09], SE=0.06, β= -
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 20
.18, p<.001. When humanity esteem was included in the model, the effect of individual
narcissism on conspiracy beliefs remained significant, B=2.06[1.47, 2.63], SE=0.30, β=.32, p
< .001 and the indirect effect of individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs via humanity
esteem was significant, standardized estimate=.03[.01, .05], p=.01.
Self-esteem was a significant positive predictor of humanity esteem, B=0.60[0.50,
0.69], SE=0.05, β=.51, p<.001. When humanity esteem was included in the model, the effect
of self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs became non-significant, B=0.01[-0.12, 0.13], SE=0.06,
β=.004, p=.93. The indirect effect of self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs via paranoid thought
was significant and negative, standardized estimate= -0.09[-0.14, -0.04], p<.001.
Tests of alternative models revealed a significant indirect effect of individual
narcissism on humanity esteem via conspiracy beliefs= -.05[-.09, -.02], p=.001 and a
marginally significant effect of self-esteem on humanity esteem via conspiracy beliefs=.01[-
.001, .03], p=.07. Both the effects of humanity esteem on conspiracy beliefs via narcissism= -
.01[-.04, .02], p=.71, and via self-esteem=.002[-.04, .05], p=.93, were non-significant.
Discussion
In Study 3 self-esteem and individual narcissism acted as mutual suppressors in
predicting conspiracy beliefs. When we adjusted for their overlap, the positive effect of
narcissism strengthened, and the non-significant effect of self-esteem became significantly
negative. Moreover, when we accounted for the effects of humanity esteem, the effect of
narcissism on conspiracy decreased slightly but remained significant, while the effect of self-
esteem became non-significant and close to zero. This suggests that the effect of low self-
esteem on conspiracy beliefs can be largely attributed to the fact that low self-esteem predicts
negative perceptions of humanity more broadly.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 21
General Discussion
Results of three studies demonstrated that the endorsement of conspiracy theories is
positively associated with individual narcissism. Individual narcissism was a robust predictor
of general conspiracy ideation (Studies 1 and 2) as well as of beliefs in several specific
conspiracy theories (Study 3). In Study 2 individual narcissism predicted the endorsement of
conspiracy theories regardless of these theories implicating in-group or out-group members.
This effect remained significant even when we accounted for collective narcissismanother
variable frequently linked to the endorsement of conspiracy theories (Cichocka et al., 2015).
Moreover, Study 3 demonstrated that individual narcissism remained a significant predictor
of conspiracy beliefs when we accounted for general negativity towards humanity. We
suggest that individual narcissists might be especially prone to believe in conspiracy theories
due to their elevated self-consciousness connected with exaggerated feelings of being in the
centre of others attention (Emmons, 1987; Tracy & Robins, 2004) and perceiving others
behaviour as intentionally targeted against them (Fenigstein & Vanable, 1992). Such
perceptions are linked to higher degrees of paranoid thoughts which, in turn, foster proneness
for conspiracy beliefs (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2015; Kramer, 1998). Indeed, Study 2
demonstrated that the effect of individual narcissism on conspiracy beliefs was driven by
paranoid thought.
In all studies self-esteem alone was not significantly correlated with belief in
conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, when the overlap between individual narcissism and self-
esteem was accounted for, self-esteem became a significant or marginally significant negative
predictor of conspiracy beliefs. This suggests that conspiracy beliefs are negatively associated
with secure self-esteem (i.e., self-evaluation without the narcissistic component; Paulhus et
al., 2004). However, across all studies this effect was weaker than that of narcissism and
became close to zero once we accounted for the relationship between low self-esteem and
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 22
negativity towards humanity (Study 3). Overall, these results shed light on why previous
research might have yielded inconsistent results pertaining to the link between self-evaluation
and conspiracy beliefs (Abalkina-Paap et al., 1999; Crocker et al., 1999; Stieger et al., 2013;
Swami, 2012). The current findings challenge the assumption that conspiracy theories are
endorsed only by those who lack confidence (Abalakina-Paap et al., 1999; Goertzel, 1994).
Rather, our results suggest that conspiracy beliefs might be associated with self-promotional
personality characteristics, such as individual narcissism.
Of course, as our studies were correlational, they do not allow us to establish causal
relationships between the variables. There are reasons to believe that narcissism and self-
esteem are basic personality predispositions predicting the more malleable conspiracy beliefs
and we hope that the current research offers at least preliminary indication of the
psychological mechanism that drives these connections. Nevertheless, it is also possible that
these predispositions affect each other in a dynamic system (Cunningham, Nezlek, & Banaji,
2004). Further research would do well to examine the causal pathways of the proposed
mediation model as well as to investigate the consequences exposure to conspiracy theories
might have for the individual self-concept.
RUNNING HEAD: Narcissism and conspiracy beliefs 23
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... Second, deliberating about the reasons for a behavior's normative status should reveal arguments why this behavior might be beneficial for society. These insights could reduce narcissistic responding, to which those high in conspiracy belief are prone (Cichocka et al., 2016), thereby raising the reported frequency of showing normative behavior. Third, people high in conspiracy belief are generally more likely to be guided by intuitive rather than analytical thinking (Imhoff & Bruder, 2014;Swami et al., 2014;van Prooijen et al., 2018) and to show impulsive behaviors (compared with those low in conspiracy beliefs; Bowes et al., 2021;Swami et al., 2016). ...
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People believing in conspiracy theories question mainstream thoughts and behavior, but it is unknown whether it is also linked to lower adherence to the prosocial norms of the broader society. Furthermore, interventions targeting correlates of the belief in conspiracy theories so far are scarce. In four preregistered, mixed-design experiments ( N total = 1,659, N observations = 8,902), we tested whether believing in conspiracy theories is related to lower prosocial norm adherence and whether deliberation about the reason for the norms mitigates this relationship. Across four studies with the U.S. samples, we found that believing in conspiracy theories correlated negatively with prosocial norm adherence in the control condition, which was less pronounced after deliberation (effect size of interaction: d = 0.16). Whether the norm was related to the law or not did not moderate this effect. Results point toward possible ways of mitigating negative correlates and potentially also consequences of believing in conspiracy theories.
... Tento koncept zahŕňa narcizmus charakterizovaný neustálym vyhľadávaním pozornosti, zameraním na seba a vykorisťovaním v interpersonálnych vzťahoch, subklinickú psychopatiu charakterizovanú vysokou impulzivitou a nízkou empatiou a anxietou, a tiež machiavelizmus charakterizovaný negatívnym obrazom iných a tendenciou zavádzať, klamať a manipulovať (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Predchádzajúci výskum poukázal, že jednotlivé dimenzie temnej triády môžu mať súvis s niektorými typmi ENP, najmä konšpiráciami (Cichocka et al., 2016;Golec de Zavala & Federico, 2018;Douglas & Sutton, 2011). ...
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Cieľom príspevku je poukázať na osobnostné zdroje epistemologicko nepodložených presvedčení (ENP), ktoré majú negatívny dosah ako na jednotlivcov tak aj na spoločnosť. Výskum sa zameriava na osobnostné črty temná triáda: narcizmus, psychopatia a machiavelizmus, a ich súvis s pseudovedeckými, paranormálnymi a konšpiračnými presvedčeniami. Výskumný súbor bol tvorený 829 respondentmi, z čoho bolo 481 (58%) žien, s priemerným vekom 29,98. Údaje boli získané prostredníctvom Škály epistemologicky nepodložených presvedčení a Krátkeho dotazníka Temnej triády. Údaje boli analyzované prostredníctvom lineárnej regresnej analýzy, kde závislé premenné boli tvorené dimenziami ENP a nezávislé premenné Temnou triádou. Ako kontrolné premenné boli súčasťou modelu aj demografické premenné: pohlavie, vek a ukončené vzdelanie. Výsledky regresnej analýzy ukázali, že narcizmus a machiavelizmus spoločne s demografickými premennými sú prediktormi meraných ENP. Spomenuté prediktory vysvetľujú najväčšiu variabilitu hodnôt u konšpiračných presvedčení (19%).
... People who are high in grandiose narcissism are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories because of a desire to be unique, and those high in vulnerable narcissism are more likely to believe in conspir-acies due to heightened paranoia. Other studies also show the correlation between narcissism and the belief in conspiracies (Cichocka et al., 2016;Hughes & Machan, 2021;Kay, 2021;Sternisko et al., 2021). Hence, our fourth research question: ...
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While some research addresses the relationship between religiosity and political attitudes, little is known about the relationship between religion, conspiracy beliefs, and political culture. Using the concept of authoritarianism, we hypothesise that a conspiracy mentality is likely to be associated with ethnocentric and anti-democratic attitudes, just as some types of religion-e.g., religious fundamentalism-have a close affinity to authoritarian attitudes. Using data from an online UK survey (N = 1093; quota sample, representative of education, gender, age, and region), we enquire to what extent belief in conspiracy theories is associated with xenophobic, racist, and anti-democratic attitudes, which aspects of religiosity in combination with other factors play a role in conspiracy beliefs, and which communicative and interpretative practices are associated with belief in conspiracy ideologies. Our analysis reveals that both belief in classical conspiracy theories and belief in Covid-19 conspiracy theories are significantly related to anti-Muslim sentiments, anti-Black racism, and right-wing extremism. Moreover, a regression analysis shows that an initially discovered relationship between the strength of religios-ity and conspiracy mentality disappears once religious fundamentalism is included in the model. The effect of religious fun-damentalism is moderated by narcissism and the style of social media use-namely, trusting posts made by one's friends more than the opinions of experts.
... At the heart of many conspiracy theories are several presumptions that are potentially self-enhancing: that those who believe these theories have access to secret knowledge that the mainstream is not sophisticated enough to access (the 'do your research' argument); that those who believe conspiracy theories are flexible free-thinkers, compared to the blinkered or sheep-like minority (the 'wake up' argument); and that those who believe conspiracy theories are on a critical mission and represent a brave minority working to revolutionize how society operates (the 'speaking truth to power' argument) 91 . Although there is no empirical evidence for these self-enhancing benefits, research has shown that conspiracy beliefs increase when one's personal image is threatened 92 and are somewhat higher among those who have a strong need for uniqueness 93,94 . Finally, there is emerging evidence that conspiracy beliefs satisfy a desire for entertainment. ...
Article
Conspiracy theories are part of mainstream public life, with the potential to undermine governments, promote racism, ignite extremism and threaten public health efforts. Psychological research on conspiracy theories is booming, with more than half of the academic articles on the topic published since 2019. In this Review, we synthesize the literature with an eye to understanding the psychological factors that shape willingness to believe conspiracy theories. We begin at the individual level, examining the cognitive, clinical, motivational, personality and developmental factors that predispose people to believe conspiracy theories. Drawing on insights from social and evolutionary psychology, we then review research examining conspiracy theories as an intergroup phenomenon that reflects and reinforces societal fault lines. Finally, we examine how conspiracy theories are shaped by the economic, political, cultural and socio-historical contexts at the national level. This multilevel approach offers a deep and broad insight into conspiracist thinking that increases understanding of the problem and offers potential solutions. Conspiracy theories have the potential to undermine governments, promote racism, ignite extremism and threaten public health efforts. In this Review, Hornsey et al. synthesize the literature on factors that shape conspiracy beliefs at the individual, intergroup and national level.
... The GCB-15 is also not associated with a great many constructs that it should, theoretically, not be associated with. People scoring high on the GCB-15 are, for example, no more likely to be extraverted (Majima & Nakamura, 2020;Siwiak et al., 2019); selfconfident (Cichocka et al., 2016); optimistic (Dieguez et al., 2015); religious (Atari et al., 2019); fiscally conservative (Marchlewska et al., 2022); or knowledgeable about European politics than their non-conspiratorial counterparts. ...
Article
The Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale (GCB-15) is a reliable and valid measure of conspiracist ideation, but it is also inefficient. At 15 items, the GCB-15 can take upwards of four minutes to complete. Here we introduce the GCB-5—a 5-item, short form of the GCB-15. Across five studies, we use self- and informant-report methods to demonstrate that the GCB-5 is a reliable, criterion-valid, and construct-valid measure of conspiracist ideation. In the final study, we further provide evidence that the GCB-5 has promise for addressing novel research questions. Specifically, we show that people high in conspiracist ideation—as assessed by the GCB-5—are more accepting of the use of nuclear weapons and other forms of so-called “virtuous violence” (e.g., anti-abortion legislation).
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The term radicalization has been used over the past decades with different interpretations. Coolsaet used the “catch-all concept” (2011, p. 261) to define the trend that many constructs use one idea in reference to different phenomena. Radicalization has, for many years, been synonymous with terrorism, with a particular focus on violent radicalization rather than radical meaning/thinking. Many other meanings in this sphere have been developed and used. For example, Schmid notes that even within scholarly and public debates not all forms of political violence are all-terrorist or all- extremist (Schmid, 2011). Widespread uses and abuses of the term radicalization have appeared in the media and more broadly in the public sphere. This has created confusion regarding the various meanings of the term, and ultimately delegitimizing the role that some forms of radicalism have had, throughout history, in promoting democracy and social justice. It is therefore important to reaffirm the distinction between violent radicalization and nonviolent radicalization (Schmid, 2011). We know that radicalization should not necessarily incorporate the idea that a subject performs a violent act, or that the radical position assumed may be connoted a priori as negative or dangerous. Radicalization is a situated phenomenon. Developing a radical point of view is a variable that can be understood and evaluated in connection with rights, community practices, and the opportunities people have to discuss and contrast these ideas. People can adopt radical ideas, although they may be considered radical with respect to the social or collective norm, they are not necessarily extremist or contrary to democratic norms and values. Radicalization can also lead to different legitimate forms of democratic coexistence if the dialectic debate is allowed into a social context. What is considered radical in a social, cultural and specific historical time cannot be considered so in another. Some nonviolent radical people have played an extremely positive role in their communities, as well as in a wider political context. They have generated forms of political action based on participation, advocacy programs, awareness campaigns or groups of consciousness that grow through dialectics or critical reflection. Sometimes the progress in societies and civil rights has been the result of some form of radical thinking. But radicalization might also be better understood as an evolutionary process. Many people develop radicalized thinking through a specific life experience in a spectrum that can in no way reach violence or be closed to other points of view. People experience radicalization more or less consciously as the result of a process of sedimentation of meanings and perspectives that can become rigid and impermeable to debate, dialectics and confrontation over time. Violence can be an expression of this extreme state, where violence is interpreted as the only or right way to assert and to impose an idea. This book has been developed around this debate of radicalization, and the authors are aware that this notion of radicalization could be difficult to comprehend as the subject is convoluted and at times contradictory. But the intent of this collective work is not to propose a dictionary definition of radicalization or stabilize a positional idea about it. We would like to propose some studies to support a deeper and more complex understanding of this phenomenon called radicalization through seeing it through different points of view. In the following chapters there is not one unique scientific area involved or different levels of analysis. We have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to show the complexity of a part of this scientific debate and we explored the phenomenon through a theoretical and empirical approach. Some of the authors describe qualitative and quantitative research connecting radicalization with other constructs developed in sociological, psychological, educational studies. Other researchers develop ways to understand radicalization from a theoretical point of view. They have attempted to find connections among theories rather than reduce it to one singular framework. There is, however, a common frame of work that guides the chapters of this book -the concept that the first way to prevent and contrast the use of violence in the radicalization processes is through education. We well know the importance of the security approach and that collaboration is necessary, but goals can differ and likewise so can methods of prevention. In the book’s title we have used “everyday life” as a reminder that radicalization takes place in the initial stages of informal learning contexts. Peer groups, family, sport teams, workplaces and social media are spaces where people can radicalize their positions. In these spaces of everyday life, we can find companions, authorities, and beliefs ready to validate more radical ideas. This book, divided into two principal parts, aims to explore the phenomenon of radicalization with special attention to the influence of informal learning processes. The first part consists of chapters that use a theoretical framework while the second part presents empirical research. We think that this division can help the reader understand both challenges: which theories and constructs could be developed to better understand the radicalization processes? What are some examples of radicalized experiences in social life? We hope that social workers, educators, psychologists, politicians and other professionals involved in prevention can find examples and new words for describing their work, and to plan new programs, activities and interventions. Each one of us can potentially develop personal, political, religious, or ethical perspectives that could be considered extreme, at least from others’ points of view. Radical views only become problematic when they legitimize, encourage, or validate violence or forms of extremist behaviors, including terrorism and acts of hatred which are intended to promote a particular cause, ideology, or worldview. Individuals going through a process of radicalization can encourage, assist, or commit violence in the name of a specific system of beliefs because they are convinced that their assumptions are absolute and exclusive, and not framed within a personal or social history that can be re-read and re-negotiated.
Article
The main aim of the study was to replicate and extend van Prooijen's findings (2017) on how education and its outcomes (cognitive complexity, subjective social standing, self‐esteem, a feeling of control and powerlessness, cognitive reflection, epistemic curiosity and scientific reasoning) predict conspiracy beliefs. In two studies (Study 1: N = 497, Mage = 49.06, SDage = 14.92; Study 2: N = 482, Mage = 47.45, SDage = 15.87), subjective socioeconomic status and cognitive reflection (Study 1) and a feeling of powerlessness and scientific reasoning (Study 2) contributed to the negative relationship between education level and belief in conspiracy theories. These results showed the connection of education to socioeconomic status, a feeling of control and analytic thinking (cognitive reflection, scientific reasoning) and their power to reduce conspiracy beliefs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Article
Several philosophers and psychologists have characterized belief in conspiracy theories as a product of irrational reasoning. Proponents of conspiracy theories apparently resist revising their beliefs given disconfirming evidence and tend to believe in more than one conspiracy, even when the relevant beliefs are mutually inconsistent. In this paper, we bring leading views on conspiracy theoretic beliefs closer together by exploring their rationality under a probabilistic framework. We question the claim that the irrationality of conspiracy theoretic beliefs stems from an inadequate response to disconfirming evidence and internal incoherence. Drawing analogies to Lakatosian research programs, we argue that maintaining a core conspiracy belief can be Bayes-rational when it is embedded in a network of auxiliary beliefs, which can be revised to protect the more central belief from disconfirmation. We propose that the irrationality associated with conspiracy belief lies not in a flawed updating method, but in a failure to converge toward well-confirmed, stable belief networks in the long run. This approach not only reconciles previously disjointed views, but also points toward more specific descriptions of why agents may be prone to adopting beliefs in conspiracy theories.
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Powerful societal leaders - such as politicians and Chief Executives - are frequently met with substantial distrust by the public. But why are people so suspicious of their leaders? One possibility is that 'power corrupts', and therefore people are right in their reservations. Indeed, there are numerous examples of unethical leadership, even at the highest level, as the Watergate and Enron scandals clearly illustrate. Another possibility is that people are unjustifiably paranoid, as underscored by some of the rather far-fetched conspiracy theories that are endorsed by a surprisingly large portion of citizens. Are societal power holders more likely than the average citizen to display unethical behaviour? How do people generally think and feel about politicians? How do paranoia and conspiracy beliefs about societal power holders originate? In this book, prominent scholars address these intriguing questions and illuminate the many facets of the relations between power, politics and paranoia.
Book
Powerful societal leaders - such as politicians and Chief Executives - are frequently met with substantial distrust by the public. But why are people so suspicious of their leaders? One possibility is that 'power corrupts', and therefore people are right in their reservations. Indeed, there are numerous examples of unethical leadership, even at the highest level, as the Watergate and Enron scandals clearly illustrate. Another possibility is that people are unjustifiably paranoid, as underscored by some of the rather far-fetched conspiracy theories that are endorsed by a surprisingly large portion of citizens. Are societal power holders more likely than the average citizen to display unethical behaviour? How do people generally think and feel about politicians? How do paranoia and conspiracy beliefs about societal power holders originate? In this book, prominent scholars address these intriguing questions and illuminate the many facets of the relations between power, politics and paranoia.
Chapter
This chapter reviews the history of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) across the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) editions—from the original inclusion in DSM-III through the proposal for DSM-5. The empirical data supporting our current understanding and diagnosis of NPD are examined and challenges are discussed (e.g., comorbidity, ability to characterize the grandiose and vulnerable variants).
Article
“Even paranoids have enemies.” So (reportedly) said the fourth Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, to Henry Kissinger during the 1973 Sinai talks. The point is, of course, that while paranoia is typically considered to describe a pathological disjunction between persecutory belief and reality, this is not necessarily so. There are numerous historical and contemporary examples of situations in which one group of people really are out to get others (for example, the McCarthyist persecution of supposed communist sympathizers in the 1950s, and numerous pogroms). Indeed, this is a point repeatedly made about conspiracy by laypeople, often in defense of their belief in conspiracy, and scholars, often in defense of their thesis concerning conspiracy belief (see Coady, 2006). Under some circumstances, there really has been a conspiracy going on behind the conspiracy theory. Our aim in this chapter is not to discuss whether or not paranoia or conspiracy belief is legitimate or rational (there are clearly cases where it may be), but rather to investigate why some people endorse conspiracy theories more than others. Specifically, we shall do this through consideration of several important individual difference variables that have been implicated as the foundation of a range of social and political attitudes and behaviors – social dominance orientation (SDO) (Sidanius and Pratto, 1999) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) (Altemeyer, 1981, 1996) – that together comprise a particularly powerful explanatory package (Altemeyer, 1998; Duckitt, 2001; McFarland and Adelson, 1996). At the same time, we shall attempt to illustrate the role that paranoia might play in the process.
Article
“Germany planned this from the beginning. The German dream is at hand. What they’ve been unable to achieve through guns and tanks, the unified Germany is about to achieve through austerity and export-based economic prowess. As the euro crisis deepens, Germany has taken on greater and greater power in dictating fiscal policy to euro-zone states. If the euro survives, Germany will accomplish what it couldn’t through blood, sweat and tears. A German continent that serves as a vehicle for German economic and political interests. That’s why, if the euro survives, you’ll start to hear more of a German conspiracy. After all, isn’t this what they thought would happen all along?” As the quotation above nicely illustrates, perceptions of conspiracy and malevolent intent readily arise between interdependent social groups, especially when one group perceives that the actions of another pose an economic, social, or existential threat. To this point, a considerable body of social-psychological research has documented the prevalence of mutual suspicion and distrust between groups at all levels of social organization, as well as the ease with which such psychological states can develop. Distrust and suspicion have been observed, for example, between groups within public and private organizations (Blake and Mouton, 1986; Lane and Bachman, 1998), between diverse groups within social communities (Crocker, Luhtanen, Broadmax et al., 1999; Pruitt, 1987), and between international groups (Jervis, 1976; Kahn and Kramer, 1990; Larson, 1997). Whether measured in terms of the seemingly intractable misunderstandings and social conflicts they engender (Pruitt, 1987) or the missed opportunities they portend (Larson, 1997), mutual suspicion and distrust have remained enduring, if unfortunate, features of many intergroup relations.