Article

The dark side of meaning-making: How social exclusion leads to superstitious thinking

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Abstract

This paper tests a meaning-making model of conspiratorial thinking by considering how one's search for meaning mediates between social exclusion and the endorsement of conspiratorial (Study 1) and superstitious (Study 2) beliefs. In Study 1, participants first wrote about a self-selected personal event that involved a social interaction, they then indicated how socially excluded they felt after the event, and, finally, they rated their endorsement of three well-known conspiracy theories. In Study 2, participants were randomly assigned to a Social Inclusion, a Social Exclusion, or a Control condition, after which they indicated the association between improbable events in three scenarios. In addition, both studiesmechanistically tested the relation between social exclusion and conspiratorial/superstitious thinking by measuring the participants' tendency to search for meaning. Both Study 1 (correlational) and Study 2 (experimental) offer support for the hypothesis that social exclusion is associated with superstitious/conspiratorial beliefs. One's search for meaning, correlational analyses revealed, mediated this relation.We discuss the implication of the findings for community-wide belief dynamics and we propose that social inclusion could be used to diminish the dissemination of superstitious beliefs and conspiracy theories.

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... If the relational self is under threat, people seek to regain a sense of social support (see Thoits, 1984). In this regard, research has begun to explore whether conspiracy theory communities can sometimes offer a promise of such help (Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Moulding et al., 2016;Poon et al., 2020;van Prooijen, 2016). ...
... Accordingly, Poon et al. (2020) demonstrated that conspiracy beliefs can increase when people feel excluded from others: across three studies, experimental manipulations of ostracism (e.g., receiving fewer social media likes compared to a control group) increased conspiracy beliefs. Cross-sectional research has indicated similar effects, revealing associations between conspiracy beliefs and feelings of social exclusion (Graeupner & Coman, 2017), as well as a sense of isolation (Moulding et al., 2016). Interestingly, van Prooijen (2016) found that conspiracy beliefs were actually higher when participants were experimentally induced to feel included (vs. ...
... However, this was only among participants experiencing unstable self-esteem. Considering the majority of research showing that social exclusion motivates conspiracy beliefs (Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Moulding et al., 2016;Poon et al., 2020), it appears that when people experience relational concerns, threats to the individual self in the form of unstable self-esteem may override these concerns. In this case, the unstable sense of self-esteem may have interacted with the experimental manipulation of belonging to motivate conspiracy beliefs in an attempt to re-establish personal uniqueness. ...
Article
Recent empirical and theoretical developments suggest that endorsement of conspiracy theories can arise from the frustration of social motives. Taking this further, the current review integrates theorising on processes relating to three selves—the individual, relational, and collective self and outlines their associations with conspiracy beliefs. In doing so, we argue that motives pertaining to the individual self (e.g., narcissism, need for uniqueness) are linked to belief in conspiracy theories to deflect blame from personal shortcomings and protect the self‐image. Motives responding to threats to the relational self (e.g., social exclusion) increase endorsement of conspiracy theories to regain a sense of social support through exchanging shared concerns. Finally, collective self motives (e.g., collective narcissism, perceived ingroup victimhood) foster conspiracy beliefs to defend the group image by blaming outgroups for ingroup misfortunes and placing one's group in a morally superior victim role. Taken together, endorsement of conspiracy theories appears to be borne out of attempts to manage these three selves. Potential consequences for each of the selves, future directions, and theoretical implications are discussed.
... Pripadnici marginalizovane grupe češće prihvataju teorije zavjere, što se dalo i očekivati na osnovu njihovog deprivilegovanog položaja, i istorijski i trenutno. Uopšteno gledano, podaci pokazuju da kod pripadnika društvenih kategorija koji imaju osjećaj prijetnje i koji su predmet predrasuda, postoji sklonost ka vjerovanju u teorije zavjere (Cichocka, Marchlewska, & de Zavala, 2016;Graeupner & Coman, 2017). Neka istraživanja pokazuju da glasači opozicionih političkih opcija pokazuju nešto izrazitiju sklonost ka teorijama zavjere, u odnosu na glasače vladajuće opcije (Uscinski & Parent, 2014). ...
... Takođe, istraživanje rađeno u Maleziji pokazalo je da stepen vjerovanja u jevrejske teorije zavjere iskazuje dosljedne korelacije sa antiizraelskim i antisemitskim stavovima, sa orijentacijom na socijalnu dominaciju i sa desničarskom autoritarnošću (Swami, 2012). Istraživanja, generalno, pokazuju i da kod grupa kod kojih postoji osjećanje simboličke ili stvarne prijetnje, te kod onih koji su izloženi predrasudama, postoje tendencije ka vjerovanju u teorije zavjere (Cichocka et al., 2016;Graeupner & Coman, 2017). Kad je u pitanju politički život, neke studije pokazuju da pripadnici opozicionih političkih opcija (nasuprot vladajućim) pokazuju nešto izrazitiju sklonost ka teorijama zavjere (Uscinski & Parent, 2014). ...
... Povezanost između zabrinutosti za kolektiv i prihvatanja teorija zavjere je više izražena, nego što je to u slučaju lične zabrinutosti. Generalno, kao i u studijama rađenim ranije i u drugim kontekstima, ispostavlja se da kod grupa kod kojih postoji osjećanje zabrinutosti i percepcija prijetnje, postoje tendencije ka vjerovanju u teorije zavjere (Cichocka et al., 2016;Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Radnitz & Underwood, 2017;. Osjećanje zabrinutosti za kolektiv, kao i lične zabrinutosti, karakteristike su nestabilnih društava, onih koje prolaze kroz periode tranzicije, bilo političke bilo ekonomske, te postaju plodno tle za prihvatanje zavjereničkih narativa. ...
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Osnovni istraživački problem ove studije predstavlja identifikaciju, učestalost i determinante vjerovanja u teorije zavjere u bosanskohercegovačkom kontekstu. Teorije zavjere se mogu, u najširem smislu, definisati kao skup pojednostavljenih i najčešće empirijski neutemeljenih uvjerenja u kojima sveprisutna i moćna grupa učesnika koordinisano organizuje aktivnosti sa zlonamjernim i štetnim ciljevima. Naš problem je bio tretiran kroz više istraživačkih pitanja i zadataka: Kakav je istorijat teorija zavjere? Kako se teorije zavjere proučavaju u društvenim naukama? Koje teorije zavjere su rasprostranjene u našem društvu? Kakve su one u poređenju sa regionalnim i internacionalnim kontekstima? Koliko su one rasprostranjene različitim stratumima populacije? Koji su socijalni i psihološki korelati prihvatanja teorija zavjere? Kakva je psihološka struktura vjerovanja u teorije zavjere? Postoje li načini da se smanji uticaj štetnih teorija zavjere? Osnovni dizajn našeg istraživanja je deskriptivno-korelacioni nacrt, zasnovan na kvantitativnoj anketnoj studiji. Istraživanje je sprovedeno u drugoj polovini maja 2018. godine, na uzorku punoljetnih stanovnika Bosne i Hercegovine, metodom anketiranja licem u lice. Prilikom izbora uzorka, vodilo se računa o bitnim demografskim odlikama populacije BiH. Ukupno je ispitano 1046 ispitanika (53% žena), sa prosjekom starosti od 42 godine. Ukupno je bilo 68.5% ispitanika iz Federacije BiH, 29.5% iz Republike Srpske, a 2% iz Distrikta Brčko. Kad je u pitanju etnička struktura uzorka, oko 14% ispitanika izjasnilo se kao Hrvati, oko 42% kao Bošnjaci, oko 31% kao Srbi, oko 11% kao Bosanci, te oko 2% kao Drugi. Glavna registrovana varijabla u istraživanju nam je bila vjerovanje u teorije zavjere, koja je procjenjivana skalom koja je sadržala 24 stavke koje su predstavljale specifične teorije zavjere. Polovina stavki bile su lokalno specifične, a druga polovina predstavljala je globalno prisutne teorije zavjere. Upitnik je sadržavao i druge varijable, poput crta ličnosti, važnosti socijalnih identifikacija, cinizma, autoritarnosti, nacionalizma, konzervativizma, percepcije društvene nepravde, osjećanja prema drugim etničkim grupama, povjerenja u institucije, te političke i socijalne participacije. Rezultati pokazuju da skoro svaki ispitanik vjeruje u bar jednu teoriju zavjere, od 24 koje smo im ponudili. Dvije trećine ispitanih vjeruje da je privatizacija rezultat sprege mafije i državnih struktura i onih koji vjeruju da velike korporacije rade na uništavanju interesa malih tržišta širom svijeta. Neznatno manji je procenat ispitanika koji smatraju da velike farmaceutske firme namjerno šire razne bolesti kako bi povećale prodaju lijekova, da je sudbina naroda i država na Balkanu rezultat zakulisnih igara imperijalističkih sila, te da je bivša Jugoslavija uništena da bi kapitalizam zamijenio socijalističko uređenje. Najveće razlike po sociodemografskim karakteristikama našli smo između pripadnika različitih etničkih grupa. Ispitanici različitih etniciteta najviše se razlikuju na stavkama vjerovanja u teorije zavjere koje se odnose na međuetničke relacije, kao posljedice sukoba 90-ih godina. Takođe, vidjeli smo da se socioekonomski slojevi društva razlikuju po stepenu prihvatanja teorija zavjere, i to tako da niži stratumi društva radije prihvataju ove narative. Na osnovu veza između prihvatanja teorija zavjere i socio-psiholoških varijabli, vidimo da u našem kontekstu prihvatanje teorija zavjere ide uz klaster desnih, tradicionalnih i konzervativnih stavova, koje karakteriše i stalna zabrinutost za sopstvenu grupu, te udaljavanje od drugih kolektiva. Dalje, vidimo da ljudi koji više prihvataju zavjereničke narative imaju generalno ciničniji pogled na društvo, kao na anomično i nepravedno, te selektivno vjeruju u birane institucije, ne učestvuju puno u društvenim akcijama, ali su skloniji političkom angažmanu. U zaključcima studije predlažemo preporuke o tome šta vlasti i društvo mogu učiniti kako bi se suprotstavile štetnom uticaju nekih teorija zavere. Prva opšta preporuka, na osnovu zdravog razuma i rezultata ove studije, jeste da društvene i političke institucije trebaju biti otvorene i transparentne. Druga opšta preporuka govori o dugoročnom pristupu kroz obrazovni sistem gdje se treba više fokusirati na razvoj kritičkog mišljenja i istraživačkih vještina kod mladih. Treća preporuka je da institucije civilnog društva, tj. nevladine organizacije, mediji i javnost moraju da rade zajedno u pravcu razotkrivanja teorija zavere. Na kraju, javnost u cjelini treba senzibilizirati u pogledu zavjereničkih narativa, a posebno onih koji su ukorjenjeni u ideološkim sukobima. Na samom kraju rada razmatramo pitanja i ograničenja studije i ideje o mogućim poboljšanjima dizajna istraživanja.
... The values in which each individual believes thus affect their beliefs about human needs, health, and illness and directly affect their response to diseases, the choices of treatment, and the quality of life. [13] A person with rational beliefs has flexible health beliefs and accepts change. [14] The recognition of beliefs is effective in the achievement of health and treatment goals. ...
... Based on boundaries, superstition has two main types: personal superstition, which is the person's ideas about the malevolence of certain days, places, and even hospitals, [6,36] and social superstition, which is rooted in people's culture, such as the belief in good and bad luck. [13] The features and preconditions of superstition a. The lack of knowledge about events b. ...
... Moreover, more than 40% of Americans believe in superstitious treatments. [13] In Africa, 70% of people turn to indigenous treatments such as charms and witchery to treat their illness. [38] A study showed that African people are intensely superstitious and modern technologies have not been able to reduce their superstitious tendencies. ...
Article
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Concept exploration and development of superstition is the aim of this research. Superstition is a complex concept, needs to be clarity, removes it from its mundane state, and gives it a scientific richness. To use a list of questions extracted from a review of the literature to analyze, develop, and explore superstition. It was assessed according to studies conducted in three fields sociology, psychology, and nursing. The maturity of the concept was determined in four areas, epistemology, practicability, semantics, and deduction/logic. Nurses must discover people's beliefs and superstitions. Although the concept of superstition is commonly used, many of its features and aspects were still unclear.
... The inherent motivation of Lyme militancy may be found in Table 1, which shows that 9 sites out of 10 are favorable to the existence of chronic Lyme disease. Conversely, the audience for the available contents is inversely proportional to their scientific credibility [16]. Today's doctors in France are inadequately trained on functional somatic syndrome (FSS) along with their underlying mechanisms and in certain cases, face to their patients' suffering, they remain in a state of denial. ...
... In addition, a negativity bias is explained by the tendency of the human brain to be more profoundly marked by negative than by positive experiences. In this case, search and selection of information motivated by fear is conducive to the garnering of progressively more alarming pieces of information, which are not necessarily the most relevant [16][17][18]. The social exclusion encountered by suffering patients who are in pain and at loggerheads with conventional doctors renders them even more susceptible to adhere to a belief [16]. ...
... In this case, search and selection of information motivated by fear is conducive to the garnering of progressively more alarming pieces of information, which are not necessarily the most relevant [16][17][18]. The social exclusion encountered by suffering patients who are in pain and at loggerheads with conventional doctors renders them even more susceptible to adhere to a belief [16]. The narrative power of videos and celebrity testimonies (present on the FFMVT website) creates conditions favorable to adherence to alarmist theories, which lend themselves to development of a nocebo effect [17]. ...
Article
Objectives To describe the role of the internet and cognitive biases in the controversy surrounding chronic Lyme disease. The attribution of chronic but aspecific symptoms to Lyme borreliosis is a source of worldwide controversy. Patients and methods Some patients attribute their aspecific symptoms to Lyme borreliosis even though, in fact, they have a functional somatic syndrome. Results These patients’ diagnostic and therapeutic wandering contributes to the above attribution and to their suffering. The Internet has deregulated the information market. Cognitive confirmation bias contributes to confinement in belief. Negativity bias explains the tendency of the human brain to select the most alarming information available. The narrative force of alarmist videos or personal testimonies acts like a nocebo effect. The social exclusion generated by adherence to this belief is a factor of reinforcement and aggravation. Conclusions Deconstructing chronic Lyme disease with empathy and conviction is in patients’ best interests.
... For example, the fatalistic beliefs induced by stressful life events result in depression (Zuo et al., 2020), which decreases presence of meaning in life (Lambert et al., 2013). Besides, superstitious thinking caused by social exclusion is related to less presence of meaning in life (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). Thereby, it is logical to assume that fatalism, as a closely related construct to superstitious thinking (Shahid et al., 2020), may be negatively related to presence of meaning in life. ...
... Fatalism, as a passive and pessimistic belief, can induce much negative emotion, such as depression (Zuo et al., 2020), which increased the ambiguity of adolescents' judgments of things and further damaged their sense of meaning in life (Lambert et al., 2013). Moreover, this result was connected with the notion that superstitious thinking can be negatively related to presence of meaning in life (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). ...
Article
Despite widely linking cyberbullying victimization (CV) to some poorer mental health outcomes, CV also negatively impacts the internal strengths that make life worth living, such as meaning in life, which has received less attention. This study thus aimed to examine the relationship between CV and presence of meaning in life as well as the mediating roles of fatalism and self-concept clarity in this relationship. Gender differences in the mediation model were also examined. A sample of 766 Chinese junior school students ( M = 13.11 years, SD = 1.19 years) completed questionnaires regarding CV, presence of meaning, self-concept clarity, and fatalism. The results revealed that CV was significantly and positively correlated with presence of meaning. Structural equation modeling indicated that self-concept clarity and fatalism completely mediated the link between CV and presence of meaning in parallel and sequential manners. The multigroup analysis further showed that CV was positively related to fatalism only among girls and had a stronger negative association with self-concept clarity for girls compared with boys. Thus, the indirect link between CV and presence of meaning was stronger for girls (versus boys). Findings suggested that CV was associated with poor self-concept clarity, stronger fatalism, and low levels of presence of meaning in life among adolescents, especially for girls. Increasing self-concept clarity and decreasing fatalistic beliefs are thus necessary to help cyberbullying victims to develop meaning in life.
... Finally, the frequent exposure to COVID-19 news (Bendau et al., 2020;Xiong et al., 2020) accompanied by low perceived efficacy of governmental actions (Maekelae et al., 2020) can make people react with suspicion and develop conspiracy theories about it (Wilson and Rose, 2014). According to Uscinski et al. (2020), during the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increase in irrational beliefs or conspiracy theories, possibly due to decreased social interactions (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), potentially leading to detrimental outcomes for individuals (Bierwiaczonek et al., 2020) and societies alike (Jolley and Paterson, 2020;Romer and Jamieson, 2020). ...
... Indeed, recent research links paranoia and delusions to heightened perceived volatility (Deserno et al., 2020;Kreis et al., 2021). A reduced feeling of control, in combination with reduced regularity and less trust, might explain why a small proportion of respondents endorse conspiracy theories and paranoid ideations (Graeupner and Coman, 2017;Bierwiaczonek et al., 2020;Jolley and Paterson, 2020;Jovančević and Milićevi, 2020;Romer and Jamieson, 2020;Uscinski et al., 2020). ...
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has affected all countries with more than 100 million confirmed cases and over 2.1 million casualties by the end of January 2021 worldwide. A prolonged pandemic can harm global levels of optimism, regularity, and sense of meaning and belonging of people, yielding adverse effects on individual's mental health as represented by worry, paranoia, and distress. Here we studied resilience, a successful adaptation despite risk and adversity, in five countries: Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel and Norway. In April 2020, over 2500 participants were recruited for an observational study measuring protective and obstructive factors for mental health. More than 800 of these participants also completed a follow-up study in July.We found that thriving, keeping a regular schedule, engaging in physical exercise and less procrastination served as factors protecting mental well-being. Risk factors were financial worries and a more negative mindset, e.g. feeling a lack of control. Longitudinally, we found no increase in distress or paranoia despite an increase in expectation how long the outbreak and the restrictions will last, suggesting respondents engaged in healthy coping and adapting their life to the new circumstances. Thus, our data shines some light on the mostly depressive news during the pandemic. Humans adapt and despite adversity there are protective factors that policy makers should leverage on.
... The third set of needs are social, including the desire to hold one's self and one's groups in positive regard. For instance, people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories if they need to feel unique compared to others (Lantian, Muller, Nurra & Douglas, 2017), feel a need to belong (Graeupner & Coman, 2017), or feel that their group is underappreciated (Cichocka, Marchlewska & Golec de Zavala, 2016) or under threat (Jolley, Douglas & Sutton, 2018). ...
... Increased social isolation is also associated with increased conspiracy belief (Graeupner & Coman, 2017), and so as people endure longer periods of lockdown and restrictions on social gatherings during the pandemic, a vicious cycle may follow. ...
Article
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Conspiracy theories started to appear on social media immediately after the first news about COVID-19. Is the virus a hoax? Is it a bioweapon designed in a Chinese laboratory? These conspiracy theories typically have an intergroup flavour, blaming one group for having some involvement in either manufacturing the virus or controlling public opinion about it. In this article, I will discuss why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in general, and why conspiracy theories seem have flourished during the pandemic. I will discuss what the consequences of these conspiracy theories are for individuals, groups and societies. I will then discuss some potential strategies for addressing the negative consequences of conspiracy theories. Finally, I will consider some open questions for research regarding COVID-19 conspiracy theories, in particular focusing on the potential impact of these conspiracy theories for group processes and intergroup relations.
... Similar to this current study, in the United States, it was revealed that undocumented immigrants experience exclusion from public services and basic legal rights (Quesada, Hart, & Bourgois, 2011). Graeupner and Coman (2017) aver that social exclusion is often associated with feelings of insignificance. These authors further articulate that interracial tension, social and economic inequality, and poverty are the main drivers of social exclusion (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). ...
... Graeupner and Coman (2017) aver that social exclusion is often associated with feelings of insignificance. These authors further articulate that interracial tension, social and economic inequality, and poverty are the main drivers of social exclusion (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). ...
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Informal workers, such as day labourers, are frequently living in rampant poverty; exploited, with no place to go for protection; ill from not having access to clean water or basic social services; maimed, or worse, as there are no basic safety conditions at work; holding little or no hope that life can be better; struggling on a daily basis just to survive. The aim of this paper is to contextualise the relationship between day labouring, poverty and vulnerability. The research applied a case study research design. It involved day labourers from Mbekweni in the Western Cape Province at three hiring sites. It was found that the day labour market is mainly a catchment area for those who have lost their jobs in the formal economy, and who are unable to secure re-employment. Immigrants from the rest of Southern Africa also join this informal labour market, and compete with their South African counterparts for the available temporary employment on offer. The greatest vulnerability faced by day labourers is long periods of chronic unemployment and the infrequent hires and resultant unstable and low income.
... From an evolutionary point of view, EUBs are considered either a by-product of the evolution of psychological mechanisms (such as pattern recognition, detection of hazards and opportunities) or a part of an evolved adaptive psychological mechanism (van Prooijen & van Vugt, 2018). Examining these beliefs is important as they have a negative impact in many areas such as intergroup dynamics (Graeupner & Coman, 2017) or health (Jolley & Douglas, 2017), and they can lead to prejudice, discrimination, aggression (Jolley et al., 2019), and political extremism (van Prooijen et al., 2015). ...
... Many sources of EUB have been studied in recent years including social (Graeupner & Coman, 2017), personality (Lobato et al., 2014) or cognitive ones (Ståhl & Van Prooijen, 2018). In the current study, we focused on the relationship between maladaptive personality variables and EUB. ...
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The present research focuses on the question whether spirituality, religiosity and maladaptive personality traits, as measured by the PID-5 (antagonism, psychoticism, disinhibition, negative affectivity, detachment), predict epistemologically unfounded beliefs (conspiracies, pseudo-science and paranormal beliefs). The sample included 829 participants recruited through social networks (58% women, mean age 29.98 years). The results showed that especially psychoticism is a positive predictor of all types epistemo-logically unfounded beliefs (EUB). Spirituality and religiosity predicted only paranormal beliefs with very small effect size. No interaction between psychoticism and spirituality/religiosity in prediction of EUB was found. Results confirmed that some maladaptive personality traits (especially psychoticism) can play a significant role in EUB and should be taken into account when considering sources of EUB at the individual level.
... Finally, the frequent exposure to COVID-19 news (Bendau et al., 2020;Xiong et al., 2020) accompanied by low perceived efficacy of governmental actions (Maekelae et al., 2020) can make people react with suspicion and develop conspiracy theories about it (Wilson and Rose, 2014). According to Uscinski et al. (2020), during the COVID-19 outbreak there has been an increase in irrational beliefs or conspiracy theories, possibly due to decreased social interactions (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), potentially leading to detrimental outcomes for individuals (Bierwiaczonek et al., 2020) and societies alike (Jolley and Paterson, 2020;Romer and Jamieson, 2020). ...
... Indeed, recent research links paranoia and delusions to heightened perceived volatility (Deserno et al., 2020;Kreis et al., 2021). A reduced feeling of control, in combination with reduced regularity and less trust, might explain why a small proportion of respondents endorse conspiracy theories and paranoid ideations (Graeupner and Coman, 2017;Bierwiaczonek et al., 2020;Jolley and Paterson, 2020;Jovančević and Milićevi, 2020;Romer and Jamieson, 2020;Uscinski et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has affected all countries with more than 100 million confirmed cases and over 2.1 million casualties by the end of January 2021 worldwide. A prolonged pandemic can harm global levels of optimism, regularity, and sense of meaning and belonging, yielding adverse effects on individuals' mental health as represented by worry, paranoia, and distress. Here we studied resilience, a successful adaptation despite risk and adversity, in five countries: Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel, and Norway. In April 2020, over 2,500 participants were recruited for an observational study measuring protective and obstructive factors for distress and paranoia. More than 800 of these participants also completed a follow-up study in July. We found that thriving, keeping a regular schedule, engaging in physical exercise and less procrastination served as factors protecting against distress and paranoia. Risk factors were financial worries and a negative mindset, e.g., feeling a lack of control. Longitudinally, we found no increase in distress or paranoia despite an increase in expectation of how long the outbreak and the restrictions will last, suggesting respondents engaged in healthy coping and adapting their lives to the new circumstances. Altogether, our data suggest that humans adapt even to prolonged stressful events. Our data further highlight several protective factors that policymakers should leverage when considering stress-reducing policies.
... In line with previous studies (Douglas et al., 2019;Uscinski and Parent, 2014), we anticipate that an individual's social position will be inversely related to beliefs in COVID-19 CTs as a sense of "losing out" may induce suspicion in powerful entities rigging the social game. Also, based on prior research (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), we hypothesize that higher levels of social integration predict decreased beliefs in COVID-19 CTs as social exclusion leads people to reject mainstream narratives and embrace fringe explanations. ...
... According to past research (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), people who are less socially integrated may develop beliefs contrary to mainstream perspectives in their search for meaning. We also found that social exclusion (as measured by social belonging index) predicts increased beliefs in COVID-19 CTs -a fact that confirms our initial hypothesis. ...
Article
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The current pandemic has generated many conspiracy theories (CTs). In this paper, we investigate several determinants of COVID-19 CTs using survey data from Romania. Some of our findings are consistent with those of previous studies on other CTs: low values of social integration, open-mindedness, and analytical thinking predict conspiracy thinking as well as higher levels of collective narcissism. Other findings run counter to those of prior research on CTs. We hypothesize that this might be due to the specificity of the CTs under scrutiny and related to the Romanian context.
... In such societies, people need to make sense of the instability in the world around them, which, in its turn, leads them more easily to accept oversimplified conspiratorial explanations. In general, groups that feel more anxious and threatened tend to demonstrate stronger conviction in conspiracy theories (Cichocka, Marchlewska, & de Zavala, 2016;Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Radnitz & Underwood, 2017;Swami et al., 2016). ...
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Conspiracy theories in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a psychological study of conspiracy theory beliefs in a post-conflict society The main aim of this research study is to identify what beliefs in conspiracy theories are held by citizens of Bosnia & Herzegovina, how prevalent these beliefs are, and what other determining factors are at work in the holding of such convictions. A conspiracy theory can be broadly defined as a set of oversimplified and in many cases false beliefs in omnipresent and nefarious groups, that are driven by harmful and evil aims, and that coordinate the activities that they organise. The design of the study is descriptive-correlational, based on quantitative surveys. Participation in the study was anonymous and voluntary. In a random sample of citizens of Bosnia & Herzegovina, during June 2018, direct surveys of 1,046 respondents were carried out (53% of which were women). The predominant age of respondents was 25 years (the median age being 42 years). The ethnic structure of the sample: 14% Croats, around 42% Bosniaks, around 31% Serbs, 11% Bosnians, and around 2% of respondents declared themselves as Other. Our focal variable was Belief in conspiracy theories, and was assessed on a scale containing 24 statements that express particular conspiracy theories. Half of these items related to locally specific conspiracy theories, and the other half represented contemporary global conspiracy theories. The other measurements used in the study included personality traits, importance of identification with social groups, social cynicism, authoritarianism, perception of injustice, intergroup emotions, political and social participation, nationalism, social conservatism, trust in institutions and political orientation. The results show that around 96% of respondents are convinced by at least one conspiracy theory out of the 24 that were listed. With regard to the prevalence of the type of the conspiracy theories in the overall sample, two thirds of the respondents believe that privatization is the result of collaboration between the mafia and state institutions and that large corporations aim at destroying small market interests throughout the world. A slightly smaller number of respondents think that large multinational pharmaceutical companies spread diseases deliberately in order to boost their sales. Next in rank order is the conviction that the fate of nations in the Balkans has always been shaped by imperial forces working behind the scenes, and that the aim of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia was to destroy the socialist state and to impose a capitalist system. The most frequent narrative encountered attempts to explain the poor social and economic situation through conspiracies carried out by influential foreign actors. Further, different socio-economic classes of respondents differ in the strength of their conviction in conspiracy theories, insofar as respondents in lower social classes are more likely to accept conspiracy narratives. The largest differentiation, by socio-demographic traits, is demonstrated between members of different ethnic groups. Respondents of different ethnicities differ mostly in their conviction in conspiracy theory claims that are related to inter-ethnic relations resulting from the conflicts of the 1990s. As anticipated, conviction in conspiracy theories generally correlates positively with the "warm" emotions towards one’s own ethnic group and with the "cold" emotions towards other ethnic groups. Conviction in Western conspiracy theories correlates most consistently with emotions towards other groups. The stronger the conviction in Western conspiracy theories, the more positive the feelings towards one’s own ethnic group and the more negative towards other groups. Also, the study demonstrates that most conspiracy theories correlates positively with ethnic, religious, and entity identifications. Further, conviction in Western conspiracy theories correlates negatively with the state and Europe identifications. The data shows that respondents who are convinced of conspiratorial narratives are mostly on the conservative wing of the political spectrum: they lean towards authoritarianism, nationalism, conservatism, and religiosity. The personal and collective anxiety variables correlate positively with conviction in conspiracy theories, but the correlation between anxieties related to one’s own nation and the strength of conviction in conspiracy theories is somewhat stronger than in the case of feelings of personal threat. Correlations between trust in social institutions and levels of conviction in conspiracy theories proved to be very weak, but they do exist. The study has demonstrated that the general conspiratorial factor positively correlates with levels of trust in the RS President, RS police, and religious communities to which the respondents belong, while it correlates negatively with levels of trust in the FBiH President. On the other hand, strength of conviction in Western conspiracy theories correlates more firmly with trust in the RS President, RS police, and RS government. Further, conviction in Imperialist conspiracy theories shows the strongest negative correlation with trust in the FBiH President, BiH Presidency, BiH Council of Ministers, and the OHR. With regard to correlation between the perceptions of personal and social injustice, cynicism, and political and social participation, the study shows the general factor correlates with all variables except that which concerns social participation. The total sample of respondents exhibits positive correlation between conspiratorial thinking and political participation. On the other hand, respondents who are more likely to be convinced of conspiratorial narratives self-report weaker participation in social actions, such as fundraising, volunteering, and environmental activism. In the conclusions of the study we propose the recommendations regarding what government and society can do to counter conspiracy theories. The first general recommendation, as common sense would have it and as the results of this study demonstrate, is that social and political institutions should be open and transparent. The second general recommendation, which may be even more general than the first and which requires a long-term approach, is to shape the education system in such a way as to focus more on the development of critical thinking and research skills in young people. The third recommendation would be that civil society institutions, i.e. NGOs, media and the public will have to work together to counter conspiracy theories. Lastly, the public as a whole should be sensitized in relation to conspiracy theories, especially those which are rooted in ideological conflict. Again, excellence in education must be emphasised which has the potential to create powerful foundations for critical thinking and the critical evaluation of information. At the very end of the paper we discuss the issues and limitations of the study and the ideas of possible improvements of the research design.
... Sie lösen aber die Probleme nicht, die Menschen empfänglich für Verschwörungstheorien machen. Falsche Theorien können schaden, etwa wenn medizinische Behandlung abgelehnt oder behindert wird oder sich die Personen sozial isolieren (Graeupner/Coman 2017). Auf gesellschaftlicher Ebene begrenzen Verschwörungstheorien die Reichweite kritischer Auseinandersetzungen. Wenn Gegenargumente pauschal als Teil einer Verschwörung eingestuft werden, macht dies das den Verschwörungstheorien anhängende Lager immun gegen Kritik, selbst wenn diese begründet ist. ...
... On the one hand, isolation and social exclusion appears to strengthen beliefs in conspiracy theories by increasing anxiety and need to simplify the world. Graeupner and Coman (2017) investigated this possibility in two studies, one correlational and the other experimental. The correlation between feelings of exclusion and endorsement of conspiracy theories was r = .19. ...
Book
This open-access book examines the phenomenon of fake news by bringing together leading experts from different fields within psychology and related areas, and explores what has become a prominent feature of public discourse since the first Brexit referendum and the 2016 US election campaign. Thanks to funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, all chapters can be downloaded free of charge at the publisher's website: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9780429295379 There is also an Amazon Kindle edition that's free of charge: https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Fake-News-Correcting-Misinformation-ebook-dp-B08FF54H53/dp/B08FF54H53/ref=mt_other?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=
... While one may speculate that endorsing conspiracy and superstitious beliefs could counteract the negative impact of social isolation (e.g. Graeupner and Coman, 2017;Poon et al., 2020), it is not clear how these social psychology studies may apply to individuals who have a schizotypal personality. Besides, given that the zero-order correlation between loneliness and 'odd beliefs or magical thinking' was small (r = 0.06), controlling for other positive schizotypal traits in the same model, which could serve as colliders, may have led to the occurrence of a spurious negative edge (Pearl, 2009). ...
Article
Background Schizotypy is a multidimensional personality trait related to the heightened risk for the development of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. While it has been suggested that loneliness may be associated with schizotypy in general, whether it relates to the specific schizotypal traits differentially remains unknown. Besides, as loneliness often co-occurs with depression and anxiety, it is important to delineate its relationship with schizotypy in consideration of these co-occurring emotional disturbances. Methods A demographically diverse sample of young people was obtained from multiple sources. The validated sample consisted of 2089 participants (68.4% female, age range: 18–30). The structural relationship between loneliness and schizotypy was modelled using a network analytic approach. The Gaussian graphical model with loneliness and nine schizotypal traits as nodes was first estimated without, and then with adjustment for the levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms. Edges were estimated as unique associations between nodes. Results ‘Suspiciousness’, ‘odd beliefs or magical thinking’, ‘no close friends’, ‘constricted affect’ and ‘excessive social anxiety’ were linked to loneliness directly. Loneliness was found to be more strongly associated with ‘suspiciousness’ and ‘no close friends’ than other schizotypal traits. After adjustment for the levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms, the above direct edges remained robust. Limitations The use of cross-sectional data indicated only undirected associations between variables. Conclusions Loneliness was more strongly linked to some schizotypal traits than others, with the relationships maintaining above and beyond the effects of anxiety and depression. These findings warrant further investigation of the specific relationships between loneliness and individual schizotypal traits.
... This threat-regulation theory of CTs is supported by converging evidence of positive links between CTs and death-related anxiety (Newheiser, Farias & Tausch, 2011), need for order (Abalakina-Paap, Stephan, Craig, & Gregory, 1999;Swami, 2012), and even preference for Manichean narratives, (i.e., simplified teleological accounts of complex random events; Oliver & Wood, 2014). In line with these findings, experimental investigations have shown that threats to control (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015;Whitson & Galinsky, 2008) and identity (Graeupner & Coman, 2017) increase CTs. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research suggests that belief in conspiracy theories (CT) stems from basic psychological mechanisms and is linked to other belief systems (e.g. religious beliefs). While previous research has extensively examined individual and contextual variables associated with CT beliefs, it has not yet investigated the role of culture. In the current research, we tested, based on a situated cultural cognition perspective, the extent to which culture predicts CT beliefs. Using Hofstede's model of cultural values, three nation-level analyses of data from 25, 19 and 18 countries using different measures of CT beliefs (Study 1, N = 5,323; Study 2a, N = 12,255; Study 2b, N = 30,994) revealed positive associations between Masculinity, Collectivism and CT beliefs. A cross-sectional study among US citizens (Study 3, N = 350), using individual-level measures of Hofstede's values, replicated these findings. A meta-analysis of correlations across studies corroborated the presence of positive links between CT beliefs, Collectivism, r = .31, 95%CI = [.15; .47] and Masculinity, , r = .39, 95%CI = [.18; .59]. Our results suggest that in addition to individual-differences and contextual variables, cultural factors also play an important role in shaping CT beliefs.
... Closing businesses and restricting travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted US supply chains [14], exacerbated social inequalities [11], and increased rates of anxiety and depression [6]. There's even evidence to suggest that physical or social distancing may increase the spread of conspiracy theories [13]. Furthermore, physical distancing measures are ultimately voluntary and experts expect such measures to be less effective as lockdowns continue and isolated individuals inevitably grow bored [24]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Although physical distancing measures played a key role in slowing COVID-19 spread in early 2020, infection rates are now peaking at record levels across the country. Hospitals in several states are threatened with overwhelming numbers of patients, compounding the death toll of COVID-19. Implementing strategies to minimize COVID-19 hospitalizations will be key to controlling the toll of the disease, but non-physical distancing strategies receive relatively little attention. We present a novel system of differential equations designed to predict the relative effects of hospitalizing fewer COVID-19 patients vs increasing ICU bed availability on delaying ICU bed shortages. This model, which we call SEAHIRD, was calibrated to mortality data on two US states with different peak infection times from mid-March – mid-May 2020. It found that hospitalizing fewer COVID-19 patients generally delays ICU bed shortage more than a comparable increase in ICU bed availability. This trend was consistent across both states and across wide ranges of initial conditions and parameter values. We argue that being able to predict which patients will develop severe COVID-19 symptoms, and thus require hospitalization, should be a key objective of future COVID-19 research, as it will allow limited hospital resources to be allocated to individuals that need them most and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
... Some circumstantial evidence also has suggested a negative predicting effect between social class and belief in conspiracy theories. For instance, people who have experienced exclusion (Graeupner & Coman, 2017) and those who have failed in the political process (Uscinski & Parent, 2014) also tend to believe and support conspiracy theories. In addition, low self-efficacy, lack of self-esteem, dissatisfaction with life, and anxiety may lead to higher belief in conspiracy theories (Brotherton & Eser, 2015;Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013;Swami et al., 2011;van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2013). ...
Article
Previous research has indicated that social class is likely to be an important factor that influences individuals’ beliefs in conspiracy theories; however, the underlying psychological mechanisms between these two variables remain unclear. This study directly investigated the relationship between these two variables through questionnaires and experimental manipulation, and introduced the perspective of compensatory control theory to investigate the serial mediating role of perceived control and need for structure in the process of social class influencing individuals’ belief in conspiracy theories. The results showed that social class can significantly negatively predict individuals’ belief in conspiracy theories, and perceived control and need for structure played a serial mediating role between them. To some extent, these results reveal the psychological mechanism that causes the higher likelihood of people from lower social classes to believe in conspiracy theories, and advances the explanation from the compensatory control theory.
... On the one hand, isolation and social exclusion appears to strengthen beliefs in conspiracy theories by increasing anxiety and need to simplify the world. Graeupner and Coman (2017) investigated this possibility in two studies, one correlational and the other experimental. The correlation between feelings of exclusion and endorsement of conspiracy theories was r = .19. ...
... Groh (1992, S. 276) sieht den Glauben an Verschwörungsideologien daher unter anderem als Folge »einer Häufung krisenhafter Phänomene«, die häufig nicht aus eigener Kraft zu bewältigen seien. Auch Gefühle der Exklusion aus der eigenen Gruppe können über die Suche nach Bedeutung zur Mobilisierung von Verschwörungsmythen führen (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). Das Individuum wird auf diese Weise versuchen, ein Gleichgewicht zwischen Innen und Außen wiederherzustellen, um die eigene Handlungsfähigkeit abzusichern (vgl. ...
Article
Dieser Artikel beschreibt die psychische Integration und Mobilisierung von Verschwörungsideologien auf der Grundlage problemzentrierter Interviews. Im Mittelpunkt steht die Analyse der Bereitschaft, konspirative »Machenschaften« als eine die Gesellschaft strukturierende Kraft zu begreifen. Weiterhin werden diejenigen Funktionen diskutiert, die Verschwörungsideologien im Rahmen der individuellen Selbstverortung innerhalb des sozialen Gefüges spielen; insbesondere vor dem Hintergrund ihrer desintegrierenden sowie identitätsstiftenden Aspekte.
... This is likely because people are more drawn to conspiracy theories when important psychological needs are frustrated 105 . Thus, conspiracy theories may gain more traction as COVID-19 spreads and more people isolate themselves 106 . ...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behaviour change and places significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help align human behaviour with the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts. Here we discuss evidence from a selection of research topics relevant to pandemics, including work on navigating threats, social and cultural influences on behaviour, science communication, moral decision-making, leadership, and stress and coping. In each section, we note the nature and quality of prior research, including uncertainty and unsettled issues. We identify several insights for effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight important gaps researchers should move quickly to fill in the coming weeks and months.
... This is likely because people are more drawn to conspiracy theories when important psychological needs are frustrated 105 . Thus, conspiracy theories may gain more traction as COVID-19 spreads and more people isolate themselves 106 . ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive, global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behavior change and poses significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences are critical for optimizing pandemic response. Here we review relevant research from a diversity of research areas relevant to different dimensions of pandemic response. We review foundational work on navigating threats, social and cultural factors, science communication, moral decision-making, leadership, and stress and coping that is relevant to pandemics. In each section, we outline implications for solving public health issues related to COVID-19. This interdisciplinary review points to several ways in which research can be immediately applied to optimize response to this pandemic, but also points to several important gaps that researchers should move quickly to fill in the coming weeks and months.
... However, it is still largely unknown whether interpersonal factors such as ostracism also increase conspiracy beliefs. One recent research has provided evidence that an unpleasant interpersonal encounter can predict interpersonal conspiracy beliefs and superstitious 898944P SPXXX10.1177/0146167219898944Personality and Social Psychology BulletinPoon et al. Graeupner and Coman (2017) found that measured ostracism is positively associated with conspiracy beliefs (Study 1) and that experimentally induced ostracism increases superstitious beliefs (Study 2). As the study that directly tested the ostracism-conspiracy link was correlational in nature and did not include a control group for comparison, it is still unclear whether ostracism plays a causal role in forming conspiracy beliefs. ...
Article
Four studies (total valid N = 643) examined whether ostracism increases people’s political conspiracy beliefs through heightened vulnerability and whether self-affirmation intervention counteracts the effect of ostracism on conspiracy beliefs. Compared with their nonostracized counterparts, ostracized participants were more likely to endorse conspiracy beliefs related to different political issues (Studies 1–3). Moreover, heightened vulnerability mediated the link between ostracism and conspiracy beliefs (Studies 1–3). Offering ostracized participants an opportunity to reaffirm values important to them could reduce their political conspiracy beliefs (Study 4). Taken together, our findings highlight the crucial role of vulnerability in understanding when and why ostracism increases conspiracy beliefs and how to ameliorate this relationship. Our findings also provide novel insights into how daily interpersonal interactions influence people’s political beliefs and involvement.
... Then participants were asked to fill up a French version of the Positive And Negative Affects Scale (PANAS, 20 items, 5-points Likert, Gaudreau, Sanchez, & Blondin, 2006), which was used to hide one added manipulation check item ("I feel rejected," see Graeupner & Coman, 2017). This distractor task is also quite common in SQT experiments (e.g., Webber et al., 2018;Study 3) because compensatory responses to threats (i.e., responses on domains unrelated to the threatened domain, here violent extremization after personal exposure to social exclusion) only occur after some delay (Jonas et al., 2014). ...
Article
Psychological research suggests that violent extremism (e.g., terrorism) stems partly from existential motives, such as individuals' need to achieve significance in life after experiencing failure, ostracism, or humiliation (Significance Quest Theory; SQT). Parallel investigations from sociology and criminology established similar findings by linking anomia-a syndrome including feelings of meaninglessness, powerlessness, isolation, self-estrangement, and normlessness-with violent behavior. In line with SQT, this contribution tested if anomia could mediate Loss of Significance effects on violent extremism. Accordingly, three studies conducted in France highlight indirect effects of exposure to discrimination on legitimation of political violence (Study 1, cross-sectional, minority population sample, N = 110), violent behavioral intentions (Study 2, experimental, undergraduate sample, N = 249), and support for ISIS fighters (Study 3, experimental, undergraduate sample, N = 221) through anomia. A subsequent study shows this indirect effect to be robust when controlled for Social Dominance Orientation and Political Extremism (Study 4, cross-sectional, undergraduate sample, N = 279). A final investigation re-analyzing data collected in Turkey highlights a reverse effect when the independent variable tapped into social inclusion (rather than exclusion; Study 5, cross-sectional, undergraduate sample, N = 321). This indirect effect was also robust to Political Extremism and Intolerance as control variables. These results support the usefulness of considering anomia as a proximal predictor of violent extremism in a SQT perspective.
... This threat-regulation theory of CTs is supported by converging evidence of positive links between CTs and death-related anxiety (Newheiser, Farias & Tausch, 2011), need for order (Abalakina-Paap, Stephan, Craig, & Gregory, 1999;Swami, 2012), and even preference for Manichean narratives, (i.e., simplified teleological accounts of complex random events; Oliver & Wood, 2014). In line with these findings, experimental investigations have shown that threats to control (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015;Whitson & Galinsky, 2008) and identity (Graeupner & Coman, 2017) increase CTs. ...
Article
Full-text available
Research suggests that belief in conspiracy theories (CT) stems from basic psychological mechanisms and is linked to other belief systems (e.g. religious beliefs). While previous research has extensively examined individual and contextual variables associated with CT beliefs, it has not yet investigated the role of culture. In the current research, we tested, based on a situated cultural cognition perspective, the extent to which culture predicts CT beliefs. Using Hofstede's model of cultural values, three nation-level analyses of data from 25, 19 and 18 countries using different measures of CT beliefs (Study 1, N = 5,323; Study 2a, N = 12,255; Study 2b, N = 30,994) revealed positive associations between Masculinity, Collectivism and CT beliefs. A cross-sectional study among US citizens (Study 3, N = 350), using individual-level measures of Hofstede's values, replicated these findings. A meta-analysis of correlations across studies corroborated the presence of positive links between CT beliefs, Collectivism, r = .31, 95%CI = [.15; .47] and Masculinity, , r = .39, 95%CI = [.18; .59]. Our results suggest that in addition to individual-differences and contextual variables, cultural factors also play an important role in shaping CT beliefs.
... Specifically, Golec de Zavala and Cichocka (2012) Other social motives appear relevant to conspiracy theories, including the need to belong. Graeupner and Coman (2017) considered the relationship between social exclusion and belief in conspiracy theories. Participants in one study were asked to think about a social interaction and rate how socially excluded they felt after the event. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
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.
... Accordingly, three types of motivations underlie adherence to conspiracist beliefs, namely, (a) epistemic, (b) existential (the need to feel safe and in control), and (c) social (the need to belong with a group, see Douglas et al., 2017 for an overview). Empirical findings support this classification because adherence to unfounded beliefs is positively associated with uncertainty reduction (Marchlewska et al., 2018), loss of control (Whitson & Galinsky, 2008), death anxiety (Newheiser et al., 2011), and social exclusion threats (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). ...
Article
The prevalence of unfounded beliefs (e.g. supernatural or conspiracy beliefs) remains an important issue due to their negative consequences in various domains. Interventions were shown to reduce supernatural beliefs only when addressing pseudoscientific ones. Based on these findings, we designed a single session intervention aiming to teach participants the epistemological distinction between science and pseudoscience. We then assessed the effectiveness of this intervention. Secondary school teachers (N = 130) were assigned to one of two groups focusing on critical thinking with or without the intervention content related to pseudoscience. Supernatural beliefs, conspiracy mentality and pattern perception were measured using computerized surveys pre‐ and one moth post‐intervention. Mixed‐model analyses revealed the expected decrease in conspiracy mentality, d = .60, supernatural beliefs, d = 1.01 and illusory pattern perception, d = .34 among teachers in the pseudoscience‐focused group. Our intervention constitutes a novel cost‐effective tool for critical thinking promotion among education professionals. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Closing businesses and restricting travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted US supply chains [14], exacerbated social inequalities [11], and increased rates of anxiety and depression [6]. There's even evidence to suggest that physical or social distancing may increase the spread of conspiracy theories [13]. Furthermore, physical distancing measures are ultimately voluntary and experts expect such measures to be less effective as lockdowns continue and isolated individuals inevitably grow bored [24]. ...
... Anger has also been shown to promote belief in politically concordant misinformation 81 as well as COVID-19 misinformation 82 . Finally, social exclusion, which is likely to induce a negative mood, can increase susceptibility to conspiratorial content 83,84 . ...
Article
Misinformation has been identified as a major contributor to various contentious contemporary events ranging from elections and referenda to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only can belief in misinformation lead to poor judgements and decision-making, it also exerts a lingering influence on people’s reasoning after it has been corrected — an effect known as the continued influence effect. In this Review, we describe the cognitive, social and affective factors that lead people to form or endorse misinformed views, and the psychological barriers to knowledge revision after misinformation has been corrected, including theories of continued influence. We discuss the effectiveness of both pre-emptive (‘prebunking’) and reactive (‘debunking’) interventions to reduce the effects of misinformation, as well as implications for information consumers and practitioners in various areas including journalism, public health, policymaking and education.
... The ETM also proposes a cyclical feedback loop, in the direction that a strong conspiracy mentality increases the vulnerability to existential threats. Many studies have confirmed the first path of the ETM showing that experiences of social exclusion lead to increased endorsement of conspiracy theories (Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Poon et al., 2020). Lantian et al. (2018) found that people who were asked to defend conspiracy theories reported stronger fears of being devalued and thereby more socially excluded by others. ...
Article
We investigated linguistic factors that affect peoples’ trust in science and their commitment to follow evidence-based recommendations, crucial for limiting the spread of COVID-19. In an experiment ( N = 617), we examined whether complex (vs. simple) scientific statements on mask-wearing can decrease trust in information and its sources, and hinder adherence to behavioral measures. In line with former research on social exclusion through complex language, we also examined whether complexity effects are mediated via feelings of social exclusion. Results indicate that negative effects of text complexity were present, but only for participants with a strong conspiracy mentality. This finding informs how to increase trust in science among individuals with a high conspiracy mentality, a population commonly known for its skepticism towards scientific evidence.
... Emotions play an important role in determining how people respond to crises, yet we know little about how people subjectively interpret crisis information presented in charts and graphs. During crises, such as pandemics, an individual's judgement may be impaired if their way of life is being threatened (Blumenthal-Barby and Burroughs, 2012), which can lead to selfish or panicked behavior (O'Keefe and Reid, 1990), self-isolation (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), prejudices (Kofta et al., 2020), or blaming others for negative outcomes (Douglas et al., 2017). These strong emotions can negatively impact communities. ...
Article
Full-text available
We examined the relationship between political affiliation, perceptual (percentage, slope) estimates, and subjective judgements of disease prevalence and mortality across three chart types. An online survey (N = 787) exposed separate groups of participants to charts displaying (a) COVID-19 data or (b) COVID-19 data labeled ‘Influenza (Flu)’. Block 1 examined responses to cross-sectional mortality data (bar graphs, treemaps); results revealed that perceptual estimates comparing mortality in two countries were similar across political affiliations and chart types (all ps > .05), while subjective judgements revealed a disease x political party interaction ( p < .05). Although Democrats and Republicans provided similar proportion estimates, Democrats interpreted mortality to be higher than Republicans; Democrats also interpreted mortality to be higher for COVID-19 than Influenza. Block 2 examined responses to time series (line graphs); Democrats and Republicans estimated greater slopes for COVID-19 trend lines than Influenza lines ( p < .001); subjective judgements revealed a disease x political party interaction ( p < .05). Democrats and Republicans indicated similar subjective rates of change for COVID-19 trends, and Democrats indicated lower subjective rates of change for Influenza than in any other condition. Thus, while Democrats and Republicans saw the graphs similarly in terms of percentages and line slopes, their subjective interpretations diverged. While we may see graphs of infectious disease data similarly from a purely mathematical or geometric perspective, our political affiliations may moderate how we subjectively interpret the data.
... CB help individuals cope with uncertain situations (Marchlewska, Cichocka, & Kossowska, 2018) and stressful life experiences see Douglas et al., 2017 for a review). Some studies showed that experiencing loss of control and threats to one's identity is related to CB (e.g., Graeupner & Coman, 2017;van Prooijen & Acker, 2015;Whitson & Galinsky, 2008). Moreover, individual need for safety has been shown as a positive predictor of conspiracy mentality and adherence to various conspiracy theories (Abalakina-Paap, 1999;Swami, 2012). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Conspiracy Beliefs (CB) are a key vector of violent extremism, radicalism and unconventional political events (e.g. Brexit). So far, social-psychological research has extensively documented how cognitive, emotional and intergroup factors can promote CB. Evidence also suggests that adherence to CB moves along social class lines: low-income and low-education are among the most robust predictors of CB (Uscinski, 2020; van Prooijen, 2017). Yet, the potential role of precarity-the subjective experience of permanent insecurity stemming from objective material strain-in shaping CB remains largely unexplored. In this paper, we propose for the first time a socio-functional model of CB. We test the hypothesis that precarity could foster increased CB because it undermines trust in government and the broader political "elites". Data from the World Value Survey (n = 21,650; Study 1, electoral CB) and from representative samples from polls conducted in France (n = 1760, Study 2a, conspiracy mentality) and Italy (n = 2196, Study 2b, COVID-19 CB), corroborate a mediation model whereby precarity is directly and indirectly associated with lower trust in authorities and higher CB. In addition, these links are robust to adjustment on income, self-reported SES and education. Considering precarity allows for a truly social psychological understanding of CB as the by-product of structural issues (e.g. growing inequalities). Results from our socio-functional model suggest that implementing solutions at the socioeconomic level could prove efficient in fighting CB.
... For instance, people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories when they involve events that they feel the need to explain (Lantian et al., 2021), or target groups they perceive as culturally or politically threatening (Nera et al., 2021). In addition, people are more attracted to conspiracy theories when important psychological needs are frustrated, for instance when feeling socially excluded (Graeupner and Coman, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this article is to provide a different perspective on people's beliefs regarding controversial scientific information. We emphasize that, although people generally aim at getting a fair representation of reality, accuracy about scientific issues only matters to the extent that individuals perceive it as useful to achieve their own goals. This has important consequences in terms of how anti-science attitudes as well as epistemically questionable beliefs must be interpreted, which has consequences for addressing misinformation. We argue that most people who endorse scientific misinformation are not truly interested in its accuracy, and rather that plausibility at face value often suffices when it is meant to be used for social purposes only. We illustrate this view with the example of hydroxychloroquine, which was considered as potential treatment for Covid-19, and which has been the subject of much media hype and public concern, particularly in France.
... Results are few. There may be no effect of conspiracy beliefs on expressed meaning in life (Bakracheva 2019), whereas the search for meaning may possibly be positively correlated (Graeupner and Coman 2017). Most conspiracy believers may find some meaning, not desperation in their beliefs, and it may be that the grasping at those feelings of meaning is one of the reasons why conspiracy beliefs are hard to shake (van Prooijen and Acker 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
Crises are associated with search for meaning and security. In recent years, they have also been associated with increased attention to conspiracy theories. Such theories about COVID-19 have been many. We looked at several COVID-specific conspiracy theories and their relation to a number of other measures, including religiosity in a highly educated Norwegian convenience sample (N = 1225). Conspiracy mentality, lack of trust, and religiosity were directly associated with conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19, whereas self-reported stress and negative emotions related to the pandemic had only small, indirect effects. Unlike previous research, we found no effect of gender or age.
... The high predictive value of the subscale relationship model seems plausible because the relationship model is conceptually linked to the attachment theory and previous research found an association between an insecure attachment style and conspiracy beliefs [60]. This matches findings about the association between feelings of social exclusion and conspiracy beliefs [61,62]. The subscale self-perception was positively associated with conspiracy mentality. ...
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Background In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have been found to endorse conspiracy beliefs. Socio-demographic variables, personality functioning, anxiety, and loneliness could be risk factors for this endorsement. Methods In a representative sample of the German population ( N = 2,503) measures of conspiracy mentality, conspiracy-related beliefs toward COVID-19, personality functioning (OPD-SQS), anxiety (HADS), and loneliness (UCLA) were assessed. Pearson product-moment correlations and multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. Results Conspiracy mentality and conspiracy-related beliefs toward COVID-19 were strongly correlated. Regression analyses found younger age, male gender, lower education, and lower income to be associated with conspiracy mentality. The subscales relationship model and self-perception of the OPD-SQS were positively related to conspiracy mentality whereas interpersonal contact was negatively associated. Higher levels of anxiety were statistically predictive for conspiracy mentality. Conclusion Our findings indicate a contribution of personality functioning to the understanding of conspiracy mentality and thus to the advancement of interventions during the pandemic.
... These trends further divide and polarize the online space, dispersing conspiracy theorists into fragmented online locales. In the context of conspiracy theories, experiences of ostracism could make people more likely to hold conspiracy beliefs (Graeupner and Coman 2017), and at the same time render the already challenging task of refuting them even more difficult. Future studies should empirically evaluate the impacts of this trend. ...
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... Accordingly, three types of motivations underlie adherence to conspiracist beliefs, namely, (a) epistemic, (b) existential (the need to feel safe and in control), and (c) social (the need to belong with a group, see Douglas, Sutton, & Cichocka, 2017 for an overview). Empirical findings support this classification because adherence to UB is positively associated with uncertainty reduction (Marchlewska, Cichocka, & Kossowska, 2018), loss of control (Whitson & Galinsky, 2008), death anxiety (Newheiser, Farias, & Tausch, 2011), and social exclusion threats (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). ...
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The prevalence of unfounded beliefs (UB; e.g. supernatural or conspiracy beliefs) remains an important issue due to their negative consequences in various domains. Interventions were shown to reduce supernatural UB only when addressing pseudoscientific beliefs. Based on these findings, we designed a single session intervention aiming to teach participants the epistemological distinction between science and pseudoscience. We then assessed the effectiveness of this intervention. Secondary school teachers (N = 130) were assigned to one of two groups focusing on critical thinking with or without the intervention content related to pseudoscience. UB (supernatural, conspiracy, pattern perception) were measured using computerized surveys pre-and one moth post-intervention. Mixed-model analyses revealed the expected decrease in conspiracy UB, d = .60, supernatural UB, d = 1.01 and illusory pattern perception, d = .34 among teachers in the pseudoscience-focused group. Our intervention constitutes a novel cost-effective tool for critical thinking promotion among education professionals.
... C. Alexander et al., 2004;Sztompka, 2000). Inequality and hierarchy in society further fuel the disadvantageous dynamics, as higher social class correlates with lower empathy (Varnum et al., 2015), exploitative behavior and a higher risk for a distorted self-perception (Piff et al., 2012) while those who suffered social rejection or exclusion may be neurobiologically wired in a way that makes it hard to inhibit unwanted behavior and to play to "society's rules" (Bayer et al., 2018;Campbell, 2006;Eisenberger et al., 2003;Graeupner & Coman, 2017;Kross et al., 2011;Otten & Jonas, 2013;Woon et al., 2010). Existential threats and mental issues are imminent across all social spheres though (Bornewasser, 1993;Ceccato et al., 2018;Fali et al., 2018;Luthar, 2003;G. ...
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... Third, the social desire to retain the individual's and the group's positive regard. People are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories when they need to belong (Graeupner and Coman, 2017), or feel that their group is underappreciated (Cichocka et al., 2016). Responses to the vaccination request in terms of UO, include believing that the COVID-pandemic is not really dangerous, feeling more resilient than other people and undermining the risk of this sickness (Brown, 2012), or not believing in the possibility of being infected by the COVID-19 (Gassen et al., 2021;Salgado and Berntsen, 2021). ...
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... Interestingly, some studies showed that loneliness could continue even when the lockdowns ended 15 and that the development of mental health problems can further strengthen the magnitude of loneliness 18 . Previous research on ostracism, a form of social exclusion, has suggested that one of its most important consequences is indeed conspiratorial thinking 19,20 . Thus, the social exclusion experienced during the Covid-19 lockdown could have led people to endorse conspiracy theories. ...
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This paper reviews and synthesizes functional imaging research that over the past decade has begun to offer new insights into the brain mechanisms underlying emotion regulation. Toward that end, the first section of the paper outlines a model of the processes and neural systems involved in emotion generation and regulation. The second section surveys recent research supporting and elaborating the model, focusing primarily on studies of the most commonly investigated strategy, which is known as reappraisal. At its core, the model specifies how prefrontal and cingulate control systems modulate activity in perceptual, semantic, and affect systems as a function of one's regulatory goals, tactics, and the nature of the stimuli and emotions being regulated. This section also shows how the model can be generalized to understand the brain mechanisms underlying other emotion regulation strategies as well as a range of other allied phenomena. The third and last section considers directions for future research, including how basic models of emotion regulation can be translated to understand changes in emotion across the life span and in clinical disorders.
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Many millions of people hold conspiracy theories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event. A recent example is the belief, widespread in some parts of the world, that the attacks of 9/11 were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Israel or the United States. Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined. Such theories typically spread as a result of identifiable cognitive blunders, operating in conjunction with informational and reputational influences. A distinctive feature of conspiracy theories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy. Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracy theories or to ignore them, are explored in this light.
Article
Four studies (N = 643) supported the hypothesis that social exclusion would reduce the global perception of life as meaningful. Social exclusion was manipulated experimentally by having a confederate refuse to meet participants after seeing their videotaped introduction (Study 1) and by ostracizing participants in a computerized ball-tossing game (Study 2). Compared to control condition and acceptance conditions, social exclusion led to perceiving life as less meaningful. Exclusion was also operationalized as self-reported loneliness, which was a better predictor of low meaning than other potent variables (Study 3). Study 4 found support for Baumeister's model of meaning (1991), by demonstrating that the effect of exclusion on meaning was mediated by purpose, value, and positive self-worth.
Article
We present six experiments that tested whether lacking control increases illusory pattern perception, which we define as the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli. Participants who lacked control were more likely to perceive a variety of illusory patterns, including seeing images in noise, forming illusory correlations in stock market information, perceiving conspiracies, and developing superstitions. Additionally, we demonstrated that increased pattern perception has a motivational basis by measuring the need for structure directly and showing that the causal link between lack of control and illusory pattern perception is reduced by affirming the self. Although these many disparate forms of pattern perception are typically discussed as separate phenomena, the current results suggest that there is a common motive underlying them.
Article
Superstitious behaviours, which arise through the incorrect assignment of cause and effect, receive considerable attention in psychology and popular culture. Perhaps owing to their seeming irrationality, however, they receive little attention in evolutionary biology. Here we develop a simple model to define the condition under which natural selection will favour assigning causality between two events. This leads to an intuitive inequality--akin to an amalgam of Hamilton's rule and Pascal's wager--that shows that natural selection can favour strategies that lead to frequent errors in assessment as long as the occasional correct response carries a large fitness benefit. It follows that incorrect responses are the most common when the probability that two events are really associated is low to moderate: very strong associations are rarely incorrect, while natural selection will rarely favour making very weak associations. Extending the model to include multiple events identifies conditions under which natural selection can favour associating events that are never causally related. Specifically, limitations on assigning causal probabilities to pairs of events can favour strategies that lump non-causal associations with causal ones. We conclude that behaviours which are, or appear, superstitious are an inevitable feature of adaptive behaviour in all organisms, including ourselves.
Article
The Chinese version of the Purpose in Life questionnaire (C-PIL) was administered to 2,150 Chinese secondary school students, along with other instruments assessing psychiatric symptoms and positive mental health. Total C-PIL and its two subscales, Quality of Existence (QEXIST) and Purpose of Existence (PEXIST), correlated significantly with all measures of psychological well-being. Relative to PEXIST scores, QEXIST scores were found to be more predictive of psychological well-being. Subjects with different existential status (defined by high vs. low levels of QEXIST and PEXIST) were associated with different degrees of psychological well-being. The concept of meaning in life, as indexed by the C-PIL, and the hypothesis that life meaning is related to psychological well-being require further elaboration and refinement.
Article
It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes--that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs. The motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate, whereas the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion. There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at, but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusions. These ideas can account for a wide variety of research concerned with motivated reasoning.
Article
To evaluate the reliability and validity of the PANAS (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988b) and provide normative data. Cross-sectional and correlational. The PANAS was administered to a non-clinical sample, broadly representative of the general adult UK population (N = 1,003). Competing models of the latent structure of the PANAS were evaluated using confirmatory factor analysis. Regression and correlational analysis were used to determine the influence of demographic variables on PANAS scores as well as the relationship between the PANAS with measures of depression and anxiety (the HADS and the DASS). The best-fitting model (robust comparative fit index = .94) of the latent structure of the PANAS consisted of two correlated factors corresponding to the PA and NA scales, and permitted correlated error between items drawn from the same mood subcategories (Zevon & Tellegen, 1982). Demographic variables had only very modest influences on PANAS scores and the PANAS exhibited measurement invariance across demographic subgroups. The reliability of the PANAS was high, and the pattern of relationships between the PANAS and the DASS and HADS were consistent with tripartite theory. The PANAS is a reliable and valid measure of the constructs it was intended to assess, although the hypothesis of complete independence between PA and NA must be rejected. The utility of this measure is enhanced by the provision of large-scale normative data.
Article
In this review, I examine the social psychological research on ostracism, social exclusion, and rejection. Being ignored, excluded, and/or rejected signals a threat for which reflexive detection in the form of pain and distress is adaptive for survival. Brief ostracism episodes result in sadness and anger and threaten fundamental needs. Individuals then act to fortify or replenish their thwarted need or needs. Behavioral consequences appear to be split into two general categories: attempts to fortify relational needs (belonging, self-esteem, shared understanding, and trust), which lead generally to prosocial thoughts and behaviors, or attempts to fortify efficacy/existence needs of control and recognition that may be dealt with most efficiently through antisocial thoughts and behaviors. Available research on chronic exposure to ostracism appears to deplete coping resources, resulting in depression and helplessness.
Superstitious beliefs among African Americans
  • M Edu
Edu, M. (2014). Superstitious beliefs among African Americans. International Journal of Education and Social Science, 1(5), 113-118.
Scarcity: Why having too little means so much
  • S Mullainathan
  • E Shafir
Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013). Scarcity: Why having too little means so much. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
  • K Williams
Williams, K. (2007). Ostracism. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 425-452.