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Climate change conspiracy theories

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Abstract

An overwhelming percentage of climate scientists agree that human activity is causing the global climate to change in ways that will have deleterious consequences both for the environment and for humankind. While scientists have alerted both the public and policy makers to the dangers of continuing or increasing the current rate of carbon emission, policy proposals intended to curb carbon emission and thereby mitigate climate change have been resisted by a notable segment of the public. Some of this resistance comes from those not wanting to incur costs or change energy sources (i.e., the carbon-based energy industry). Others oppose policies intended to address climate change for ideological reasons (i.e., they are opposed to the collectivist nature of the solutions usually proposed). But perhaps the most alarming and visible are those who oppose solutions to climate change because they believe, or at least claim to believe, that anthropogenic climate change is not really happening and that climate scientists are lying and their data is fake. Resistance, in this latter case, sometimes referred to as climate “skepticism” or “denialism,” varies from region to region in strength but worldwide has been a prominent part of a political force strong enough to preclude both domestic and global policy makers from making binding efforts to avert the further effects of anthropogenic climate change. For example, a 2013 poll in the United States showed that almost 40% believed that climate change was a hoax. Climate skeptics suggest the well-publicized consensus is either manufactured or illusory and that some nefarious force—be it the United Nations, liberals, communists, or authoritarians—want to use climate change as a cover for exerting massive new controls over the populace. This conspiracy-laden rhetoric—if followed to its logical conclusion—expresses a rejection of scientific methods, scientists, and the role that science plays in society. Skeptic rhetoric, on one hand, may suggest that climate skepticism is psychological and the product of underlying conspiratorial thinking, rather than cognitive and the product of a careful weighing of scientific evidence. On the other hand, it may be that skeptics do not harbor underlying conspiratorial thinking, but rather express their opposition to policy solutions in conspiratorial terms because that is the only available strategy when arguing against an accepted scientific consensus. This tactic of calling into question the integrity of science has been used in other scientific debates (i.e., the link between cigarette smoking and cancer). Opinion surveys, however, support the view that climate change denialism is driven at least partially by underlying conspiratorial thinking. Belief in climate change conspiracy theories also appear to drive behaviors in ways consistent with the behaviors of people who think in conspiratorial terms: Climate change conspiracy theorists are less likely to participate politically or take actions that could alleviate their carbon footprint. Furthermore, some climate skeptics reject studies showing that their skepticism is partially a product of conspiratorial thinking: They believe such studies are themselves part of the conspiracy.

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... A leap forward from the controversy surrounding climate change denial, conspiracy theories surrounding climate change, while not necessarily public opinion, make their way into the mainstream, thereby fuelling doubt. Research conducted by Uscinski et al. (2017) on climate change conspiracy theories explains that conspiracy theory should not be used as a way to instill fear. Instead, the phrase describes a person or group of personal beliefs in a specific conspiracy or set of conspiracies. ...
... Instead, the phrase describes a person or group of personal beliefs in a specific conspiracy or set of conspiracies. For example, a belief that climate change is a hoax created for some dubious reason (Uscinski et al., 2017). Uscinski et al. (2017) explain that although many surveys do not outright ask whether someone has conspiracy beliefs, those who express climate denial are compelled to do so because of 'underlying conspiratorial thinking.' ...
... For example, a belief that climate change is a hoax created for some dubious reason (Uscinski et al., 2017). Uscinski et al. (2017) explain that although many surveys do not outright ask whether someone has conspiracy beliefs, those who express climate denial are compelled to do so because of 'underlying conspiratorial thinking.' In other words, individuals who deny climate change unknowingly conform to conspiracy thinking because the data supporting climate change denial began with conspiracy (Uscinski et al., 2017). ...
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This book investigates and focuses on the facts behind modern climate change, as well as historical occurrences. Readers will learn the importance of understanding and combating climate change, as well as what it is and how it has changed over time, in this collection of well-written articles.
... Despite the overwhelming evidence, much public discourse shows open skepticism with many popular contrarian voices [13,6,17]. In fact, it is believed that between 20% to 40% of the U.S. population considers climate change as a hoax or do not believe in its anthropogenic cause [22]. ...
... However, the most alarming category are climate change deniers who outright reject climate science findings or the data as a hoax. Different ideologies drive most people who describe climate science findings and data as hoax [22]. One such facet of ideology is conspiratorial thinking. ...
... [cs.SI] 7 Jul 2021 change. In other words, individuals who believe in conspiracies are more likely to refute the anthropogenic cause of climate change [22]. ...
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One of the critical emerging challenges in climate change communication is the prevalence of conspiracy theories. This paper discusses some of the major conspiracy theories related to climate change found in a large Twitter corpus. We use a state-of-the-art stance detection method to find whether conspiracy theories are more popular among Disbelievers or Believers of climate change. We then analyze which conspiracy theory is more popular than the others and how popularity changes with climate change belief. We find that Disbelievers of climate change are overwhelmingly responsible for sharing messages with conspiracy theory-related keywords, and not all conspiracy theories are equally shared. Lastly, we discuss the implications of our findings for climate change communication.
... According to United Nation's ex-general secretary Ban Ki-Moon climate change is potentially the "challenge of our generation" [114]. Although there is virtually 100% consensus among scientists about the anthropogenic cause of climate change [126], multiple studies suggest that between 20%-40% of the U.S. public believe that climate change is a hoax [151]. Climate change scientists have alerted the policymakers about the dangers of current carbon-related policies, but a signi cant set of people resist any change in policies. ...
... Previous studies suggest that somewhere between 20% and 40% of the U.S. public believe that climate change is a hoax [151]. e beliefs around climate change tend to depend upon location [79], political inclination, and education a ainment [56]. ...
... ere has been previous research that studied false stories such as conspiracy theories in the context of climate change [151]. at work looked at the how climate change "denialism" is at least partially driven by underlying mindset of people believing in conspiracy theories. ...
... The present study focuses on the role of three factors: conspiracy beliefs, a distrust in the institutions providing health information, and an endorsement of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Conspiracy beliefs are known to be involved in nearly all forms of science denial (e.g., [24]; for a summary, see [25,26]), and COVID-19 is no exception [27,28]. Several studies have shown that conspiracy beliefs are a particularly strong predictor of the rejection of vaccinations [24,29], including the rejection of COVID-19 vaccines [30]. ...
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Background We investigated if people’s response to the official recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with conspiracy beliefs related to COVID-19, a distrust in the sources providing information on COVID-19, and an endorsement of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Methods The sample consisted of 1325 Finnish adults who filled out an online survey marketed on Facebook. Structural regression analysis was used to investigate whether: 1) conspiracy beliefs, a distrust in information sources, and endorsement of CAM predict people’s response to the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) implemented by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2) conspiracy beliefs, a distrust in information sources, and endorsement of CAM are related to people’s willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Results Individuals with more conspiracy beliefs and a lower trust in information sources were less likely to have a positive response to the NPIs. Individuals with less trust in information sources and more endorsement of CAM were more unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Distrust in information sources was the strongest and most consistent predictor in all models. Our analyses also revealed that some of the people who respond negatively to the NPIs also have a lower likelihood to take the vaccine. This association was partly related to a lower trust in information sources. Conclusions Distrusting the establishment to provide accurate information, believing in conspiracy theories, and endorsing treatments and substances that are not part of conventional medicine, are all associated with a more negative response to the official guidelines during COVID-19. How people respond to the guidelines, however, is more strongly and consistently related to the degree of trust they feel in the information sources, than to their tendency to hold conspiracy beliefs or endorse CAM. These findings highlight the need for governments and health authorities to create communication strategies that build public trust.
... This narrative of secretive elites controlling global events is articulated via reference to a variety of other broadly-circulating conspiracy theories. The Hidden Templar, a political commentary YouTube series linked to KNOI (2019d: 1′19″), for example, taps into existing climate change conspiracies (Uscinski et al., 2017) by explaining that 'the idea of a worldwide climate crisis was concocted by ideologically committed internationalists to provide the excuse for a radical shift away from national sovereignty to global governance through the United Nations'. Conventional right-wing conspiratorial tropes also appear: the 'New World Order' is attributed to everyone from the Freemasons to the Illuminati, underscored by enduring anti-Semitism (Rupert, 1997: 116 fnt.18). ...
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Imagery associated with the Knights Templar appears in the public discourse and symbolism of many White supremacist and White nationalist groups. The 2011 Norwegian mass murderer cited the Templars in his manifesto, as did the 2019 New Zealand shooter. Templar crosses were on display at the 2017 White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina. To understand the security imaginary behind these racialised medievalisms and their contemporary animation within right-wing extremism, this article develops the concept of ‘conspiratorial medievalism’. The Knights Templar imaginary blends a specific, racialised, and romanticised vision of history with the grammar of conspiracy theory. This is characterised by (a) a belief in the racialised decline and victimisation of a ‘righteous’ White Christendom; (b) a sense of threat posed by racialised Others and betrayal by insiders; and (c) an anachronistic view of near-omnipotent individual agency. Significantly, conspiratorial medievalism demonstrates an aspiration to not merely combat ‘undue’ agency of racialised Others, but to reclaim and perform extreme agency themselves. Agency is cast in the idiom of medieval chivalry and framed as the moral obligation of righteous White men. Although Knights Templar imagery may appear superficial, this article finds it is an important justificatory and enabling discourse for racist violence.
... Moon landing,Swami et al, 2013).The belief in conspiracy theories is also often reflected in people's perceptions of environmental changes (e.g. climate change,Douglas and Sutton, 2015;Uscinski et al, 2017), medical issues (e.g. birth control or vaccination, seeFeatherstone et al, 2019), and global pandemic diseases such as HIV (e.g. ...
Book
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The COVID-19 Pandemic, started in China and has since spread all over the world in a short time, deeply affecting all countries.. Most countries have declared a partial or complete lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. A significant portion of employees have been unable to work in traditional ways and have had to adapt to what has become known as the “new normal”. In essence we have gone beyond the norms we used to know and have had to contruct new ways of living in the times of COVID-19. The way we know how to work and live has changed. Middle and upper classes, whose jobs are suitable for digitalization, started working online. Every extraordinary period has its winners and losers. The winners of the coronavirus pandemic period were mainly hygiene materials manufacturers, gaming companies, electronic commerce, high technology, and pharmaceutical companies etc. On the other hand, economies all over the world have shrunk. The hardest hit in the pandemic have been the areas oftourism, hospitality and entertainment etc. resulting in high rates of unemployment or underemployment within these sectors. Unemployment and existential anxiety have peaked during 2020 with increased fears posed by the new risks associated with becoming infected. With th the loss of loved ones and separation from friends and family. Psycho-social problems have also increased due to the effects of prolonged uncertainty imposed by the pandemic across all facets of everyday life In all life satisfaction has declined across in all social groups with the vulnerable most at risk due to the long lasting effects on the pandemic. While the virus has impacted on the people from all social stratas, its effects have not been felt evenly. Poverty has deepened in most countries with large rises in unemployment and governments going into more debt to buffer their economies from the effects of the pandemic In addition to higher rates of unemployment, and greater economic uncertainty communication problems have also increased. The poor, the unemployed, those with limited education and some women were more severely affected than others. In this process, the problems experienced by particularly vulnerable groups are more severe than others. The uncertainty created by the pandemic has deeply shaken people’s feelings of trust. Increased existential anxieties about life have weakened people’s analytical thinking skills. There has also been a significant correlation between low trust and people’s beliefs in conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have spread more easily in societies with low trust levels. The weaker the sense of trust that binds a society , the more people are likely to adhere to conspiracy theories in that country. This book, prepared with the contributions of authors from different countries, consists of sixteen chapters in total. The aim of the book is to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on societies. The first chapter titled “Unprecedented? Pandemic Memory and Responses to COVID-19 in Australia and New Zealand” was written by Claire Brennan and Patrick Hodgson. This chapter examines the common collective amnesia that surrounds pandemics, and compares the level of collective memory of the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic in Australia and New Zealand before the arrival of covid-19. It scrutinizes government statements and actions while preparing for and responding to pandemics, the nurturing of historical knowledge among medical experts, and the actions of groups of citizens. Additionally, the section analyzes the importance of collective memory in designing effective responses to covid-19 in these two countries. PREFACE vi The chapter entitled “Risking a New Underclass: Young Australians, Broken Transitions and the Pandemic” by Glenn Dawes and Kirstie Broadfield, highlights the risks young people face due to their vulnerability to reduced employment and education opportunities as a result of the current recession in Australia. The chapter highlights the negative consequences of long-term unemployment in terms of youth identity construction and mental health concerns, and stresses the need for additional government and community assistance to ensure that young people have new avenues to reach their potential as productive adults. Today, many teenagers in Australia face a different world compared to their parents. The challenges associated with the transition to adulthood are now more problematic and personalized for some teenagers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is alleged that the current situation has interrupted the transition to adult status and now threatens to produce a new subclass of youth due to high unemployment, underemployment and negative effects on youth mental health and well-being. “Coronavirus in Turkey Effects on Daily Life and Change of Habits in Society” is a chapter written by Deniz Ülke Arıboğan and Tuğba Aydın Özturk, which examines the daily life practices of Turkish society during the lockdown period. This research reveals important results in terms of understanding and evaluating the perception of the crisis. Coronavirus, in many parts of the world, including Turkey, has caused a financial crisis particularly among alow-income social groups The concerns of the young participants were not just about lockdown, but more about having financial independence, finding a job, or going to school during the pandemic. The chapter titled “Staying at Home”: Rhythmanalysis of the Self-quarantine”, written by Güzin Ağca-Varoğlu, aims to establish the experiences with rhythmic phenomena, which explains the effects of the social practices on the everyday life of a female ‘house-academic’ during the self-quarantine. The author examines her autobiographical experiences during the three-month self-quarantine period from Lefebvre’s rhythmanalytical perspective. The author posits that the pandemic has affected our lives at different levels. With the concept of physical distance, daily interactions and our relationship with the social sphere have changed. The house has lost its meaning as the starting and ending point of the daily cycle of urban life. During the lockdown, it has gained a new meaning as the only place of our daily life. The chapter titled “Psychosocial Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic” was written by Neşe Çakı, Dino Krupic and Philip Corr. The purpose of this chapter is to address the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on society resulting from lifestyle changes such as lockdown, social distancing and social isolation due to wearing a mask, and behavioral changes, including changes in shopping habits. This review argues that new conditions lead to many different negative psychosocial effects, such as anxiety, stress, obsessive behavior, depression, loneliness, stigma, and hoarding, but individuals experience these effects to varying degrees. The chapter titled “The Sociology of Coronavirus Conspiracies in Turkey: Who Believes and Why?” was authored by Özgür Sayın and Veysel Bozkurt. The purpose of this research, is to document demographic conspiracy beliefs about coronaviruses in Turkey, and also to examine the vii determinants of political and religious impacts on society . The research reveals that a significant portion of the society believes in conspiracy theories related to coronavirus. Housewives, young people, women, people living in rural and small towns, the unemployed or less educated have been found to be more likely to believe in coronavirus conspiracies. It has also been found that political identities, religious involvement, and reliance on science are strongly associated with conspiracy affirmations. Those who described themselves as right-wing or more religiously conservative people were more convinced that the conspiracies could be true. Moreover, as expected, there is a negative correlation between trust in science and conspiracy thinking. Those who believe in a coronavirus conspiracy often believe in other conspiracies. In other words, conspiracy belief has been found to be the result of a general mindset. The chapter titled “Music Industry in Crisis: The Impact of a Novel Coronavirus on Touring Metal Bands, Promoters, and Venues” was written by Kyle J. Messick. This section used evidence from qualitative interviews and public disclosures to draw inferences about the impact of COVID-19 on the music industry, with a particular focus on musicians and their managers, promoters and booking agents. As concerts play a stimulating role for surrounding businesses, it has been demonstrated how the closure of concert venues negatively affects the communities dependent on them. Musicians reported negative emotional and financial consequences as a result of COVID-19, but also reported financial support from metal music fans, making the consequences of the pandemic less severe. The findings of the study reveal that not giving live concerts makes musicians feel incomplete and causes depressive symptoms and anxiety. The chapter titled “The Arts as Refuge: COVID-19, Crisis, and the Heroes Waiting in the Wings” was written by Ryan Daniel. This chapter explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has i destroyed the industry and workforce; institutions have closed, festivals and events have been canceled, and art production has been severely restricted. As a result millions of artists and art workers around the world are currently unemployed, and many are unable to access government support initiatives designed mainly for traditional business models. In relatively stable times, art often struggles to survive financially. However during the current pandemic, this already fragile industry has become much closer to total collapse. It is argued that art has a strong capacity to provide shelter. The author emphasizes that we need artists, art workers and the art industry more than ever. The chapter titled “Pandemics and Migration” was written by Erin M. Sorrell and Elizabeth Ferris. This chapter analyzes the relationship between pandemics and migration. It first examines migration and then reviews the effects of the pandemic on both migrants and host communities. Additionally it also analyzes the policy consequences of the two-way relationship between migration and the pandemic. Of particular importance Particularly for this analysis is that international migrants tend to work in sectors at high risk for the virus- such as the service sector, child and elderly care and work related to the hospitality industry. The chapter titled “Refugee Students during Pandemic time: Key Words for Academic Integration” was written by Anna Fausta Scardigno. The article specifically focuses on the most viii relevant words of the focus group discussion with refugee students at Bari University. The article was looking for an answer to the question: How did refugee students react to the cessation of in-person classroom teaching and to the host university’s digital-only learning arrangement and online administrative services? The chapter of this book titled “Migrants and Communication Technologies in Challenging Times; A Double-Edged Sword” was written by Hakan Gülerce and Housein Turner. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the social and psychological effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on refugees. In this study, a literature review and situation analysis method was used to understand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on refugees. The research mainly examined the impact of mobile phone and internet addiction on the daily living habits of immigrants during the pandemic period, and focused on education difficulties, digital divisions, loneliness, alienation and other psycho-social factors that affect migrants and refugees in particular. Studies show that smartphones are very important for Syrian refugees. Smartphones are used to connect with relatives and loved ones abroad at a much more affordable rate than making a traditional phone call. The unifying power of smartphones allows refugees to connect with each other, share news and memories, and access vital public service information. The chapter titled “The Impact of Covid-19 on Crime” was written by Ruken Macit. The author contends that crime rates and trends have changed dramatically in many countries after the COVID-19 outbreak. As the COVID-19 pandemic developed as a global health, human and economic crisis, criminals found new opportunities. Within the framework of COVID-19, while measures were taken, including the call for “stay at home”, many types of crime (theft, murder, migrant smuggling) decreased, while some (cyber-crime, domestic violence) increased. The section titled “Family in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Family Ties and Communication Problems” was written by Ünal Şentürk and Veysel Bozkurt. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on family relationships. The authors seek answers to the following questions: i) To what extent have family ties strengthened? and ii) To what extent have communication problems within the family increased? Fify-five (55%) of the respondents stated that family ties were strengthened during the quarantine period. On the other hand, 17% stated that communication problems between family members increased. While the lockdown brought members of middle and high-income families closer together, the unemployed and the poor faced greater economic problems. This reflected negatively on family relationships among some disadvantaged groups. Most of those who said that domestic communication problems increased were the poor, unemployed and young people. Especially those who were unable to continue their work online faced greater economic and social problems during the time of lockdown. The chapter titled “Pandemic and Social Vulnerability: The Case of the Philippines” was written by Ericson H. Peñalba. This article discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic crisis disproportionately affected certain segments of the population, and led to conditions that create new vulnerabilities or exacerbate those that already exist. In the aftermath of the pandemic, ix children, women, the elderly, the disabled and low-income families faced much greater problems in the Philippines. The unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has made certain segments of the population more vulnerable. The last part of the book titled “Global health status in the COVID-19 pandemic duration: Home quarantine, obesity, psychological behavior” was written by Hakan Çelebi, Tolga Bahadır, İsmail Şimşek, Şevket Tulun, Gülden Gök, Melayib Bilgin. This chapter focuses on the indirect positive / negative effects of COVID-19 on the environment and people, and in particular psychological factors and obesity. We hope that this book will contribute to understanding the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which deeply affects the life, ways of working and mental health of all humanity. There have always been pandemics in history; and these led to massive casualties and social problems. Despite all the advances in science and technology, humanity has been caught off guard for the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has infected and killed millions of people around the world. Many more people have lost their jobs while poverty, anxiety and depression has increased across the globe. There may be new pandemics in the future. Our wish is that humanity will be more prepared for future pandemics and this book will raise awareness on the social problems caused by events. Veysel Bozkurt Glenn Dawes Hakan Gülerce Patricia Westenbroek
... Las teorías conspirativas acerca del cambio climático conllevan a la negación de la ciencia y a ser menos responsables con el medio ambiente, pues no se considera verdadero el conjunto de evidencias o sugerencias que ofrece la comunidad científica al respecto (Lahrach & Furnham, 2017;Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, Brophy, & Marriott, 2015;Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017;Uscinski & Olivella, 2017). Otro ejemplo está en el caso de la salud. ...
Article
La actual pandemia genera incertidumbres de todo tipo, llevando a las personas a buscar explicaciones satisfactorias que les de orden y sentido a sus experiencias vitales. Actualmente, el enemigo común se ha vuelto un nuevo coronavirus. Pero las incertidumbres significativas persisten y en esa búsqueda de respuestas aparecen también las teorías conspirativas, aquellas que señalan confabulaciones entre poderosos como la causa de los problemas más importantes. El artículo utilizará la metáfora de virus conspirativo para analizar el pensamiento conspirativo, su naturaleza, efectos y posible vacuna.
... The belief in conspiracy theories is also often reflected in people's perceptions of environmental changes (e.g. climate change, Douglas and Sutton, 2015;Uscinski et al, 2017), medical issues (e.g. birth control or vaccination, see Featherstone et al, 2019), and global pandemic diseases such as HIV (e.g. ...
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ABSTRACT The aim of this paper is to explore the demographic, political, and religious determinants of the coronavirus related conspiracy beliefs in Turkey. It also measures the relationship between the trust in science, political and religious authorities, and conspiracy endorsement. In a national survey (N Total =5538), we asked the participants three conspiracy questions and saw significant differences in all predictors that we identified. We saw that the housewives, youths, females, those living in rural areas and small towns, unemployed or less educated people were more prone to believe in coronavirus conspiracies. We also found that political identities, religious commitments, and trust in science were strongly associated with conspiracy endorsements. In comparison to their counterparts, the rightists, conservatives, and/or religious respondents were seen to endorse more the theory that the virus is a conspiracy. Further, as expected, there was a negative correlation between trust in science and conspiracy thinking. We also saw that people who believe a coronavirus conspiracy mostly believed two other conspiracies too, namely that conspiracy belief is an outcome of a general mindset. Keywords: COVID-19, Conspiracy Theories, Pandemic, Turkey
... Because of the documented relations between collective narcissism and conspiracy beliefs on the one hand, and climate change conspiracy beliefs and climate change denialism on the other, we hypothesize that conspiracy beliefs might play a mediating role in explaining the relationship between collective narcissism and the rejection of climate science. It is worth noting that previous research on the relationship between concern for global warming and conspiracy beliefs mainly focused on conspiracy mentality (for a review, see Uscinski et al., 2017). Thus, it appears that specific climate change conspiracy beliefs have been underinvestigated in the study of the rejection of climate science. ...
Thesis
La recherche en psychologie sociale sur l’adhésion aux théories du complot connaît un intérêt croissant. Cependant, les processus et les conséquences intergroupes de ces croyances restent peu étudiés. Dans cette thèse, nous défendons l’idée que les croyances conspirationnistes peuvent être conceptualisées comme des stratégies de gestion de l’identité sociale. Ce processus identitaire serait particulièrement à l’œuvre dans le cas d’une forme d’identification sociale défensive, le narcissisme collectif, en permettant d’attribuer les faiblesses de l’endogroupe aux actions secrètes et malintentionnées d’exogroupes. En outre, une victimisation exacerbée de l’endogroupe motiverait l’adhésion à ces croyances. Nous avons enfin cherché à identifier certaines des conséquences sociétales de ces croyances conspirationnistes motivées au niveau intergroupe. Dans un premier chapitre, nous montrons que les croyances conspirationnistes à propos d’exogroupes sont un prédicteur important du rejet de la vaccination sur le COVID-19. Dans un deuxième chapitre, nous examinons les conséquences négatives des croyances conspirationnistes au niveau environnemental, et leur rôle médiateur de la relation entre narcissisme national et rejet de la science sur le climat. Dans un troisième chapitre, nous étendons l’étude des conséquences négatives de ces croyances intergroupes aux discriminations envers les migrants, et nous testons les liens de causalité entre narcissisme national, perception de menace intergroupe, croyances conspirationnistes, et discriminations. Dans un quatrième chapitre, nous testons dans le contexte de crises sanitaires l’idée qu’une perception exacerbée de la victimisation de l’endogroupe légitimerait le recours aux croyances conspirationnistes. Dans un cinquième et dernier chapitre, nous cherchons à répliquer nos hypothèses en contexte écologique (supportérisme lors de tournois internationaux de football). Nous présentons une analyse de contenus de tweets émis lors de la Coupe du monde de la FIFA 2018, ainsi que le matériel d’une étude longitudinale menée lors de l’Euro 2020. Ce travail souligne l’intérêt d’une approche intergroupe des croyances conspirationnistes ainsi que de leurs spécificités.
... Furthermore, Study 3 suggested that perceived political powerlessness and political cynicism are important factors in this effect. This finding is interesting, given how hard it is to reduce conspiracy beliefs (Jolley & Douglas, 2017), the potentially dangerous backfire effects of corrective attempts (Nyhan, Reifler, Richey, & Freed, 2014), as well as the urgent need to find collective strategies for reducing their impact (Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017). ...
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Although an increasing volume of research has identified several negative sociopolitical attitudes as correlates of conspiracy theories, to date it remains unclear whether belief in conspiracy theories is necessarily in conflict with support for democratic governance. In this contribution, we integrate previous findings suggesting inconsistent relationships between belief in conspiracy theories and support for democratic governance. Study 1 (N = 300) shows that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with decreased support for representative democracy but increased support for direct democracy. Study 2 (N = 270) replicated these findings and revealed that these relationships were mediated by political cynicism and feelings of powerlessness. In Study 3 (N = 298), we experimentally show that a system with direct democracy (as compared with representative democracy) empowered participants and therefore decreased belief in conspiracy theories. Contrary to the common notion that conspiracy theories are associated with decreased support for democracy, these findings suggest that conspiracy beliefs are associated with a preference for direct over representative democracy.
... Yet, conspiracy thinking may also confer a sense of control during periods of perceived uncertainty or threat (Sullivan et al., 2010;Uscinski et al., 2017). Miller (2020), for example, has recently amassed evidence for the "monological belief system" conception of conspiracy theories (e.g., see Goertzel, 1994) in the context of COVID-19, finding that contradictory COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs are positively related in endorsement, though this finding was partially explained by personal uncertainty (i.e., the more uncertain people were about themselves, the world, and the future, the more intercorrelated their evaluations of conspiracy theories). ...
Preprint
Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 have proliferated during the global pandemic, and their rapid spread among certain groups inthe population has important implications for policy attitudes (e.g., motivation to engage in social distancing and willingness to vaccinate). Using survey data from two waves of a nationally representative, longitudinal study of life in lockdown in the UK (N = 1,406), we analyze the factors associated with belief in three theories related to COVID-19, namely that it 1) originated in a meat market in Wuhan, China, 2) was developed in a lab in Wuhan, China, and 3) is caused by 5G mobile networks. Using a dual-factor model, we test how cognitive ability and motivations affect susceptibility to misinformation. Our findings suggest that motivational and political dispositions, as well as the sources from which people derive COVID-19 related information, are strongly associated with belief in conspiracy theories about the virus, though these predictors vary among conspiracies. Belief in the Chinese lab conspiracy is associated with right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), social dominance orientation (SDO) and a preference for tabloid newspapers, while belief in the 5G network origin story is associated with social dominance orientation and a tendency to derive information on COVID-19 from social media. Moreover, we find that motivational factors like RWA and SDO have larger effect sizes than COVID-19 related anxiety, a desire for certainty, cognitive reasoning ability, or even general conspiracy ideation (in the case of 5G belief). These findings suggest that efforts to mitigate the potential damage caused by conspiracy theories, for example, by increasing education and awareness, may be inadequate because they miss a larger story, namely the role that politically motivated reasoning plays in making individuals susceptible to misinformation, and the propagation of conspiracies through networks and channels that reinforce these inaccurate worldviews.
... 464; see also Van Prooijen & Douglas, 2017). Public acceptance of conspiracy narratives, however, can be harmful not only because it can lead people to dismiss credible science but also because it can reduce the perceived importance of engaging in behaviors that are individually and collectively beneficial (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013;Oliver & Wood, 2014;Uscinski et al., 2017), including potentially life-saving actions such as following the recommendations of public health experts to mitigate COVID-19's spread (Jerit et al., 2020). We find that exposure to framed messages regarding the origins of COVID-19 can have a powerful effect on people's beliefs about the cause of this global pandemic. ...
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Conspiracy theories have flourished about the origins of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes an acute respiratory syndrome (coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19]) in humans. This article reports the results from a study that evaluates the impact of exposure to framed messages about the origins of COVID-19. We tested four hypotheses: two focusing on its origins as either zoonotic or human-engineered and two concerning the impacts of origin beliefs on the desire to penalize China or support increased funding for biomedical research. The results accentuate the importance of finding ways to combat the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories related to this global pandemic.
... Espousal of certain conspiracy theories negatively impacts society when scientific evidence is rejected and individuals behave in ways that can harm both themselves and others (Van der Linden, 2015). Recent examples range from anti-vaccination movements bringing a resurgence of diseases that were almost extinct, to rejection of climate science that threatens the survival of our whole planet (Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017). Regarding COVID-19, lockdowns and quarantines are considered by many governments, following scientific advice, as necessary in order to prevent or minimize the spread of the virus. ...
... Having looked at empirical evidence concerning far-right climate-change communication, this study now, second, turns to broader, conceptual dimensions of such communication. Scholars working on far-right climate-change skepticism regularly stress that the far-right's propensity for conspiracy theories is also visible within the context of climate-change communication (for climate-change communication and conspiracy theories more generally, see Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017; for a striking case of a link between Holocaust denial and climate-change denial, see Forchtner, 2019, p. 172f). van Prooijen, Krouwel, and Pollet (2015), in a paper dealing with the United States and the Netherlands, argued that not only are conspiracy theories more common in the extreme left and right, but also that the latter perceives conspiracies especially about "topics such as science (evolution and climate change) or immigration" (van Prooijen, Krouwel, & Pollet, 2015, p. 576). ...
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In recent years two crises have populated the imagination of publics: environmental crises, ranging from, for example, water and air pollution to climate change, and the crisis of liberal democracy, illustrated by the rise of far‐right actors across Europe, the United States and beyond. While these environmental and political crises have been analyzed on their own, little research has been done on their nexus. Against this background, this focus article reviews existing academic literature on far‐right climate‐change communication by European party and nonparty actors, that is, climate‐change communication from a distinctively ethno‐nationalist and authoritarian perspective. The far right is not a homogenous entity but best viewed as a continuum, ranging from radical‐right, anti‐liberal democracy actors to extreme‐right, anti‐democracy ones. This contribution to WIREs Climate Change argues that many, though not all, far‐right party and nonparty actors are skeptical towards (anthropogenic) climate change and/or responses to it, at least in comparison to the European mainstream. The article does so by reviewing existing research before formulating areas for further research. This article is categorized under: Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Climate Science and Social Movements
... We note that underlying conspiracy thinking and beliefs in specific conspiracy theories are different concepts (Uscinski et al., 2017); the former is a general predisposition while the latter are specific beliefs about specific theories. The relationship between these two concepts is not unlike the difference between partisanship and beliefs about specific political candidates and issues: partisanship certainly predicts more specific political opinions, but not perfectly, and is different than candidate or issue choice (Zaller, 1992). ...
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Conspiracy theories and other pseudo-scientific claims about the Zika virus have been prominent on social media. To what extent are the public concerned about the virus, and to what extent have the public adopted Zika conspiracy theories? Using data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we show that a majority of Americans are not concerned about the Zika virus, but approximately one in five Americans believes in at least one Zika-related conspiracy theory. The most widely believed is that the virus is caused by genetically modified mosquitoes. We find that elevated levels of conspiracy thinking are correlated with both concern over Zika and belief in Zika-related conspiracy theories. For example, a person scoring the maximum on the conspiratorial thinking scale is estimated to believe in .61 Zika conspiracy theories while a person scoring the minimum is estimated to believe in only .06 Zika conspiracy theories. This study demonstrates the role of predispositions, specifically underlying conspiracy thinking, in the acceptance of conspiratorial and unscientific beliefs.
... These conspiracy theories continue to resonate long after the claims were discredited (Anderegg & Goldsmith, 2014;Bricker, 2013;Jacques & Connolly-Knox, 2016;McCright & Dunlap, 2011). There is ample evidence that conspiracy theorizing about climate change goes hand in hand with conspiracy thinking and science denial more generally (e.g., Lahrach & Furnham, 2017;Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, Brophy, & Marriott, 2015;Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017;Uscinski and Olivella, 2017, see also Rutjens, Heine, Sutton, & van Harreveld, 2017). ...
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Scholarly efforts to understand conspiracy theories have grown significantly in recent years, and there is now a broad and interdisciplinary literature. In reviewing this body of work, we ask three specific questions. First, what factors are associated with conspiracy beliefs? Our review of the literature shows that conspiracy beliefs result from a range of psychological, political, and social factors. Next, how are conspiracy theories communicated? Here, we explain how conspiracy theories are shared among individuals and spread through traditional and social media platforms. Next, what are the societal risks and rewards associated with conspiracy theories? By focusing on politics and science, we argue that conspiracy theories do more harm than good. We conclude by suggesting several promising avenues for future research.
... Espousal of certain conspiracy theories negatively impacts society when scientific evidence is rejected and individuals behave in ways that can harm both themselves and others (Van der Linden, 2015). Recent examples range from anti-vaccination movements bringing a resurgence of diseases that were almost extinct, to rejection of climate science that threatens the survival of our whole planet (Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017). Regarding COVID-19, lockdowns and quarantines are considered by many governments, following scientific advice, as necessary in order to prevent or minimize the spread of the virus. ...
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented situations (government lockdowns, quarantines, etc.) and stressors (a seemingly “phantom” virus that can be lurking anywhere) causing uncertainty for the future, uncontrollable and unpredictable situations. It appears that especially during times of uncertainty and high stress, conspiracy theories flourish and these can affect the way individuals behave, especially in response to governmental recommendations for social isolation and quarantine. Psychological flexibility, we hypothesized, may act as a protective factor in the relation between COVID-19 distress, conspiracy theory beliefs and consequent behaving. In this respect, the aim of this paper was to examine how conspiracy theory beliefs, COVID-19 distress, adherence behavior, and psychological flexibility interact. Participants were 1001 individuals (802 women; Mage=35.59years, SD= 10.07), who completed an online survey approximately one month after the first governmental measures of self-isolation and quarantine were enforced. Psychological flexibility was found to mediate the relation between conspiracy theory beliefs and compliance behavior. Further, being highly stressed appeared to increase the probability that a person will believe conspiracy theories, while such beliefs influenced whether a person would follow public health recommendations. Psychological flexibility appeared to be a protective factor at low and moderate distress levels. However, at high levels of COVID-19 distress, individuals prone to conspiracy theory beliefs would be less likely to conform to governmental public health recommendations irrespective of their psychological flexibility levels.
... Yet, conspiracy thinking may also confer a sense of control during periods of perceived uncertainty or threat (Sullivan et al., 2010;Uscinski et al., 2017). Miller (2020), for example, has recently amassed evidence for the "monological belief system" conception of conspiracy theories (e.g., see Goertzel, 1994) in the context of COVID-19, finding that contradictory COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs are positively related in endorsement, though this finding was partially explained by personal uncertainty (i.e., the more uncertain people were about themselves, the world, and the future, the more intercorrelated their evaluations of conspiracy theories). ...
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Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 have proliferated during the global pandemic, and their rapid spread among certain groups in the population has important implications for policy attitudes (e.g., motivation to engage in social distancing and willingness to vaccinate). Using survey data from two waves of a nationally representative, longitudinal study of life in lockdown in the UK (N = 1,406), we analyze the factors associated with belief in three theories related to COVID-19, namely that it 1) originated in a meat market in Wuhan, China, 2) was developed in a lab in Wuhan, China, and 3) is caused by 5G mobile networks. Using a dual-factor model, we test how cognitive ability and motivations affect susceptibility to misinformation. Our findings suggest that motivational and political dispositions, as well as the sources from which people derive COVID-19 related information, are strongly associated with belief in conspiracy theories about the virus, though these predictors vary among conspiracies. Belief in the Chinese lab conspiracy is associated with right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), social dominance orientation (SDO) and a preference for tabloid newspapers, while belief in the 5G network origin story is associated with social dominance orientation and a tendency to derive information on COVID-19 from social media. Moreover, we find that motivational factors like RWA and SDO have larger effect sizes than COVID-19 related anxiety, a desire for certainty, cognitive reasoning ability, or even general conspiracy ideation (in the case of 5G belief). These findings suggest that efforts to mitigate the potential damage caused by conspiracy theories, for example, by increasing education and awareness, may be inadequate because they miss a larger story, namely the role that politically motivated reasoning plays in making individuals susceptible to misinformation, and the propagation of conspiracies through networks and channels that reinforce these inaccurate worldviews.
... In addition to these dynamics of contestation of science, there is a growing adherence to conspiracy beliefs and fake news [10,11]. Thus, attitudes towards science are polarized and oscillate between boundless trust in and complete rejection of scientific knowledge [4]. ...
Article
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Since the 1970s, there has been a growing interest in how individuals appropriate scientific knowledge, which has recently been reinforced by societal issues such as vaccine releases and skepticism about global warming. Faced with the health and social consequences of the mistrust of scientific knowledge, there is an urgent need for tools to measure the acceptance or rejection of scientific knowledge, while at the same time gaining a more detailed under- standing of the processes involved. This is the purpose of this article. Thus, we conducted 4 empirical studies to provide a validation of the Credibility of Science Scale from the perspec- tive of a French population, which aims to assess the credibility that individuals attribute to science and to empirically evaluate the link that may exist between the different levels of credibility attributed to science and the social representations of science. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrated good structural validity, the good fidelity (homogeneity and temporal stability), and the good criterion validity of the French version of the scale. In Study 2, we observed the same psychometric qualities of the French version of the scale. We also noted a struc- turing of the social representation of science based on age (Factor 1) and on the credibility attributed to science (Factor 2). Our results also raise the question of possible means of intervention to promote a better perception of science.
... The belief in conspiracy theories is also often reflected in people's perceptions of environmental changes (e.g. climate change, Douglas and Sutton, 2015;Uscinski et al, 2017), medical issues (e.g. birth control or vaccination, see Featherstone et al, 2019), and global pandemic diseases such as HIV (e.g. ...
... However, some conspiracy theories provide an explanation for concrete and specific events in society; for example, COVID-19 conspiracy theories appeared as a response to the pandemic. Given this difference between a "stable" conspiracy mentality versus situational, "dynamic" conspiracy beliefs (Brotherton et al., 2013;Imhoff et al., 2022;Imhoff & Bruder, 2014;Uscinski et al., 2017), Federico et al. (2018 presented two manifestations of conspiracism: General conspiracy thinking (a broad explanatory style) and conspiracy theory endorsement (acceptance of a conspiracy theory in a specific context). ...
Article
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Conspiracy beliefs have been studied mostly through cross‐sectional designs. We conducted a five‐wave longitudinal study (N = 376; two waves before and three waves after the 2020 American presidential elections) to examine if the election results influenced specific conspiracy beliefs and conspiracy mentality, and whether effects differ between election winners (i.e., Biden voters) versus losers (i.e., Trump voters) at the individual level. Results revealed that conspiracy mentality kept unchanged over two months, providing first evidence that this indeed is a relatively stable trait. Specific conspiracy beliefs (outgroup and ingroup conspiracy beliefs) did change over time, however. In terms of group‐level change, outgroup conspiracy beliefs decreased over time for Biden voters but increased for Trump voters. Ingroup conspiracy beliefs decreased over time across all voters, although those of Trump voters decreased faster. These findings illuminate how specific conspiracy beliefs are, and conspiracy mentality is not, influenced by an election event. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... From a sociological point of view, social change and especially crises in society impact the affinity towards conspiracy myths among the population. In times of crisis, people seek answers to complex questions which conspiracy myths promise to give (Van Prooijen and Douglas, 2017). Explanations of the political and media mainstream may no longer be satisfactory to certain segments of the population, resulting in increased affinity towards alternative interpretations of the world (see also Imhof, 1996). ...
Article
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In times of crisis, the spread of conspiracy myths increases since people seek answers to complex questions. Besides societal aspects, social media platforms, especially messenger services, have been identified as a positive driver for spreading conspiracy myths. Much research focused on whether right-wing populist attitudes correlate with belief in conspiracy myths resulting in inconsistent findings. We show that different anti-system attitudes and corresponding digital media usage can promote the affinity towards conspiracy myths apart from right-wing attitudes. With this paper, we first want to sharpen the terminology on ‘conspiracy myths’ and develop a scale to measure affinity towards conspiracy myths in different dimensions. We second use this scale to investigate different mindsets of conspiracy in the Swiss population. Third, we want to find out how the dimensions correlate with messenger usage. Based on data from a representative population survey in Switzerland from November to December 2020, we investigated different affinities towards conspiracy myths, represented by far-left, far-right, populist, anti-elitism, general anti-system attitudes and science skepticism. We then used the six dimensions in a cluster analysis and identified five typological mindsets. About 30% of the population accordingly have higher affinities towards conspiracy myths than the rest. Our study also highlights the potential role of messenger services in spreading conspiracy myths. To a certain extent, Facebook Messenger and Telegram usage show a robust correlation with the different dimensions of the affinity towards conspiracy myths. In contrast, WhatsApp usage does not show a robust correlation.
... The first example is taken from a contribution by the then party chairman of the extreme-right BNP, Nick Griffin (P7_CRE(2010)11-24(3-322)). This contribution does not only illustrate evidence scepticism, but it is furthermore interesting as it gives voice to outright conspiracy theories, which overall do not feature prominently in our corpus (for a discussion of climate change communication and conspiracy theories, see Uscinski et al., 2017). Less colourful, although no less sceptical, Julia Reid (UKIP) states that 'UKIP denies man-made climate change and believes that CO 2 is not a pollutant. ...
... John Adams Argument of Defence (39) Climate change denial, like vaccine hesitancy, has a long history (4). The concept of global warming and greenhouse gases dates back 200 years to French mathematician Joseph Fourier (1768-1830). ...
Article
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We all want to be right in our thinking. Vaccine hesitancy and global warming denial share much in common: (1) both are threats to personal, community and global health, (2) action is contingent on co-operation and social policy, and (3) public support relies on trust in science. The irony is, however, as the science has become more convincing, public opinion has become more divided. A number of early polls showed that ~70% of people supported COVID-19 vaccine use and global warming, ~20% adopted a wait-and-see approach, and ~10% were staunch objectors. Although these percentages are approximate, what factors are responsible for the differences in engagement, doubt and distrust? How can we reduce the consensus gap? One approach is to return to grass roots and provide a brief history of the issues, understand the difference between fact and opinion, truth and falsehood, the problem of certainty, and how scientific consensus is reached. To doubt is a healthy response to new information, and it too has a scientific basis. Doubt and distrust reside in that region of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for suppressing unwanted representations. Bridging the consensus gap requires shifting human thinking patterns from doubt to belief, and belief to action. Education and improved public messaging are key, and social media providers require urgent oversight or regulation to remove false and harmful/dangerous content from our digital lives. Delays to vaccinate and failure to reduce greenhouse gases will dramatically change the way we live. The new norm may be more deadly COVID variants, strained healthcare systems, extreme weather patterns, diminished food supply, delays in goods and services, damage to world's economies and widespread global instability.
... Moon landing,Swami et al, 2013).The belief in conspiracy theories is also often reflected in people's perceptions of environmental changes (e.g. climate change,Douglas and Sutton, 2015;Uscinski et al, 2017), medical issues (e.g. birth control or vaccination, seeFeatherstone et al, 2019), and global pandemic diseases such as HIV (e.g. ...
... Conspiracy theories promote narratives alleging that academic and scientific organizations are conspiring with Democratic politicians and the mainstream media to push political agendas under the guise of scientific rigor [27]. For example, skeptics of climate change often claim that Democratic politicians are conspiring with climate scientists to use scientific evidence to regulate the economy for liberal (or socialist) ends [40]. In the case of COVID-19 denialism, conspiracy theories have claimed that that the virus was spread on purpose, and that medical professionals and Democratic politicians were conspiring to make then-President Donald Trump look bad in an election year [41]. ...
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Despite widespread communication of the health risks associated with the COVID-19 virus, many Americans underestimated its risks and were antagonistic regarding preventative measures. Political partisanship has been linked to diverging attitudes towards the virus, but the cognitive processes underlying this divergence remain unclear. Bayesian models fit to data gathered through two preregistered online surveys, administered before (March 13, 2020, N = 850) and during the first wave (April-May, 2020, N = 1610) of cases in the United States, reveal two preexisting forms of distrust--distrust in Democratic politicians and in medical scientists--that drove initial skepticism about the virus. During the first wave of cases, additional factors came into play, suggesting that skeptical attitudes became more deeply embedded within a complex network of auxiliary beliefs. These findings highlight how mechanisms that enhance cognitive coherence can drive anti-science attitudes.
... As evident from the previous examples, conspiracy theories share three main elements. The first common element is that they attribute the real reason for events to powerful actors, e.g., the Illuminati, the New World Order, politicians, multinational companies, drug industries, scientists (Kata, 2010;Swami, 2012;Uscinski, Douglas, & Lewandowsky, 2017). A second element is the belief that actors act to intentionally harm common people. ...
Article
Previous literature highlights the crucial role of economic inequality in triggering a range of negative societal outcomes. However, the relationship between economic inequality and the proliferation of conspiracy beliefs remains unexplored. Here, we explore the endorsement of conspiracy beliefs as an outcome of objective country-level (Study 1a, 1b, 1c), perceived (Study 2), and manipulated economic inequality (Studies 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b). In the correlational studies, both objective and perceived economic inequality were associated with greater conspiracy beliefs. In the experiments, participants in the high (compared to the low) inequality condition were more likely to endorse conspiratorial narratives. This effect was fully mediated by anomie (Studies 3a, 3b) suggesting that inequality enhances the perception that society is breaking down (anomie), which in turn increases conspiratorial thinking, possibly in an attempt to regain some sense of order and control. Furthermore, the link between economic inequality and conspiracy beliefs was stronger when participants endorsed a conspiracy worldview (Studies 4a, 4b). Moreover, conspiracy beliefs mediated the effect of the economic inequality manipulation on willingness to engage in collective action aimed at addressing economic inequality. The results show that economic inequality and conspiracy beliefs go hand in hand: economic inequality can cause conspiratorial thinking and conspiracy beliefs can motivate collective action against economic inequality.
... As evident from the previous examples, conspiracy theories share three main elements. The first common element is that they attribute the real reason for events to powerful actors, e.g., the Illuminati, the New World Order, politicians, multinational companies, drug industries, scientists (Kata, 2010;Swami, 2012;Uscinski et al., 2017). A second element is the belief that actors act to intentionally harm common people. ...
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Previous literature highlights the crucial role of economic inequality in triggering a range of negative societal outcomes. However, the relationship between economic inequality and the proliferation of conspiracy beliefs remains unexplored. Here, we explore the endorsement of conspiracy beliefs as an outcome of objective country-level (Study 1a, 1b, 1c), perceived (Study 2), and manipulated economic inequality (Studies 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b). In the correlational studies, both objective and perceived economic inequality were associated with greater conspiracy beliefs. In the experiments, participants in the high (compared to the low) inequality condition were more likely to endorse conspiratorial narratives. This effect was fully mediated by anomie (Studies 3a, 3b) suggesting that inequality enhances the perception that society is breaking down (anomie), which in turn increases conspiratorial thinking, possibly in an attempt to regain some sense of order and control. Furthermore, the link between economic inequality and conspiracy beliefs was stronger when participants endorsed a conspiracy worldview (Studies 4a, 4b). Moreover, conspiracy beliefs mediated the effect of the economic inequality manipulation on willingness to engage in collective action aimed at addressing economic inequality. The results show that economic inequality and conspiracy beliefs go hand in hand: economic inequality can cause conspiratorial thinking and conspiracy beliefs can motivate collective action against economic inequality.
... We conducted a very similar experiment (N = 214 British undergraduate students) to examine whether this effect of conspiracy theories occurs in another domain-concerning conspiracy theories about climate science Uscinski, Douglas & Lewandowsky, 2017). Participants read a narrative either supporting climate change conspiracy theories (e.g., that climate change is a hoax-conspiracy condition) or refuting them (mainstream condition) and were asked to rate their likelihood of engaging in a range of climate-friendly behaviours. ...
Article
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Although conspiracy theories have arguably always been an important feature of social life, they have only attracted the attention of social psychologists in recent years. The last decade, however, has seen an increase in social psychological research on this topic that has yielded many insights into the causes and consequences of conspiracy thinking. In this article, we draw on examples from our own programme of research to highlight how the methods and concepts of social psychology can be brought to bear on the study of conspiracy theories. Specifically, we highlight how basic social cognitive processes such as pattern perception, projection, and agency detection predict the extent to which people believe in conspiracy theories. We then highlight the role of motivations such as the need for uniqueness, and the motivation to justify the system, in predicting the extent to which people adopt conspiracy
Article
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We implemented two survey-experiments to test the impact of conspiracy rhetoric on the views of US residents about the consequences of climate change and support for direct carbon capture. The first study focused on how receptive respondents were to a scientific report on the impacts of climate change when they were also presented with conspiracy-based criticism of the report’s conclusions. The second study explored how conspiracy rhetoric criticizing a report recommending the consideration of direct carbon capture influences support for the technology. We assess the effects of exposure to the conspiracy claims both in isolation and in contexts where scientific evidence contradicts the conspiratorial attack. We include a partisan source cue to test whether its presence enhances the impact of the messages on in-group partisans. The results accentuate the conditional nature of conspiracy rhetoric on views about the consequences of climate change and support for a novel climate geoengineering technology.
Chapter
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Climate change is a most serious challenge. Committing the needed resources requires that a clear majority of citizens approves the appropriate policies, since committing resources necessarily involve a trade-off with other expenses. However, there are distinct groups of people who remain in denial about the realities of climatic change. This chapter presents a range of psychological and social phenomena that together explain the phenomena that lead to denial.
Article
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In this article, we develop the revised and short versions of the pseudoscientific belief scale through two empirical studies (N = 4154). This revision is motivated by the excessive length of the scale, as well as by consistent observations of poor item loadings across several studies. Exploratory factor analysis in Study 1 revealed 11 dispensable items, resulting in a 19‐item revised form, whereas in Study 2 we constructed a short eight‐item form. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed unidimensional factor structures for both scales, exhibiting excellent psychometric properties in relation to factor structure, item loadings, internal consistency and convergent validity with paranormal beliefs, conspiracy theories and need for uniqueness. Whereas the original scale provides reliable indices, we encourage the use of these improved versions to measure pseudoscientific beliefs in the context of socio‐psychological studies.
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In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the consequences of conspiracy theories and the COVID–19 pandemic raised this interest to another level. In this article, I will outline what we know about the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society, arguing that they are certainly not harmless. In particular, research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID–19 recommendations. In this article, I will also discuss the challenges of dealing with the negative consequences of conspiracy theories, which present some opportunities for future research.
Article
Climate change presents a challenge at multiple levels: It challenges our cognitive abilities because the effect of the accumulation of emissions is difficult to understand. Climate change also challenges many people's worldview because any climate mitigation regime will have economic and political implications that are incompatible with libertarian ideals of unregulated free markets. These political implications have created an environment of rhetorical adversity in which disinformation abounds, thus compounding the challenges for climate communicators. The existing literature on how to communicate climate change and dispel misinformation converges on several conclusions: First, providing information about climate change, in particular explanations of why it occurs, can enhance people's acceptance of science. Second, highlighting the scientific consensus can be an effective means to counter misinformation and raise public acceptance. Third, culturally aligned messages and messengers are more likely to be successful. Finally, climate misinformation is best defanged, through a process known as inoculation, before it is encountered, although debunking techniques can also be successful. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Public Health, Volume 42 is April 2021. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Article
The definition of twist is used in modern railways to determine the warpage of a particular track plane to identify track quality. In some cases, twist is intentionally introduced on tracks to facilitate motion in curves. Nevertheless, twists values above certain thresholds, twist faults, are a direct risk to safety and a potential cause for derailments. Twist faults are commonly observed in ballasted tracks, which consists of crushed rock particles and have low endurance to resist against dynamic track forces. In general, the deterioration in ballast structure has slow progress. However, in reality, there are some catalysts such as extreme events that can speed up the deterioration of the ballast bed. Extreme events have rare occurrences but a high potential to damage structures and environment in a short duration. Even though the adjective ‘rare’ is still used to define extreme events, a consensus among the environmental scientists on the increased frequency of extreme events could be found in the literature. In this study, the impacts of flooding, one of the most common extreme events, on the dynamic behavior of a turnout structure is investigated in terms of dynamic twist. The reason to select a turnout as a basis for the simulation is the asymmetrical structure of turnout that is expected to amplify twist values. A 3-dimensional finite element method (FEM) model was developed and many hypothetical scenarios ranging from various materials to vehicle speeds were tested in FEM environment. It should be emphasized that the developed model is the modified version of a previously validated model and therefore, validation of the model is done by a comparison with the parent model. The results of the simulations, first time, show that the performance of ‘fiber-reinforced foamed urethane’ (FFU) bearers is relatively poor in comparison to concrete bearers in terms of twist values. Results also demonstrate that partially damaged structures in the case of flooding is the most critical situation. Regarding the limitations in FEM modelling, it is recommended to halt any railway operations and avoid the approach of ‘reach the station first’ in emergency cases.
Chapter
In American politics, the truth is rapidly losing relevance. The public square is teeming with misinformation, conspiracy theories, cynicism and hubris. Why has this happened? What does it mean? What can we do about it? In this volume, leading scholars offer multiple perspectives on these questions, and others, to provide the first comprehensive empirical examination of the “politics of truth”—its context, causes, and potential correctives. Combining insights from the fields of political science, political theory, communication, and psychology and offering substantial new arguments and evidence, the experts in this volume draw compelling (if sometimes competing) conclusions regarding this rising democratic threat.
Article
The popularity of conspiracy theories poses a clear challenge for contemporary liberal democracies. Conspiracy theories undermine rational debate, spread dangerous falsehoods and threaten social cohesion. However, any possible public policy response, which would try to contain their spread, needs to respect the liberal commitment to protect pluralism and free speech. A successful justification of such a policy must therefore: 1) clearly identify the problematic class of conspiracy theories; and 2) clarify the grounds on which the state is justified in acting against them. This article argues that the prevailing epistemic approaches to conspiracy theorizing cannot fulfil these criteria. Defining conspiracy theories by their flaws in reasoning, questionable coherence or factual mistakes can neither sharply distinguish problematic conspiracy theories from other, non-problematic worldviews nor justify state action. Thus, we propose to understand conspiracy theories through their ethical unreasonableness. We hold that containment of conspiracy theories is justifiable insofar as they undermine the liberal-democratic ideals of mutual respect, freedom and equality. We then show that such ‘ethical’ criteria for conspiracy theories can be sufficiently robust and clear-cut so that they can serve as a useful guide for public policy.
Article
For over 50 years, scientists have sounded alarms that the burning of fossil fuels is causing changes to the Earth's climate, and that failure to take action on climate change will have devastating consequences. Despite this urgency, CO2 emissions (and global temperatures) continue to climb. Progress on mitigating climate change is slowed by the stubborn persistence of climate skepticism, as well as a failure for nonskeptics to translate their concern about climate change into meaningful action. The goal of this article is to describe and synthesize research on how to understand (and reduce) this public inaction on climate change. In the first half of the article, we examine the question of how to understand (and overcome) climate change skepticism. We review international evidence regarding the role of demographics, ideologies, and conspiracist worldviews in shaping people's willingness to believe in the reality of human‐caused climate change. We then review theory and research on how to successfully capture the attention of—and change the behavior of—people who traditionally resist climate change messages, such as those high in conservatism and free‐market beliefs. In the second half of the article, we examine how to promote more climate‐friendly behaviors among people who believe in the reality of climate change. Evidence will be reviewed suggesting that many people agree that climate change is caused by humans, but are not yet willing to make the necessary investments and sacrifices to respond to this threat. We then draw on relevant literatures to critically discuss three strategies for promoting proenvironmental behavior: (i) optimistic versus pessimistic messages; (ii) in‐group versus out‐group messenger effects; and (c) the use of descriptive and injunctive norms.
Article
Extremist political groups, especially “extreme” Republicans and conservatives, are increasingly charged with believing misinformation, antiscientific claims, and conspiracy theories to a greater extent than moderates and those on the political left by both a burgeoning scholarly literature and popular press accounts. However, previous investigations of the relationship between political orientations and alternative beliefs have been limited in their operationalization of those beliefs and political extremity. We build on existing literature by examining the relationships between partisan and nonpartisan conspiracy beliefs and symbolic and operational forms of political extremity. Using two large, nationally representative samples of Americans, we find that ideological extremity predicts alternative beliefs only when the beliefs in question are partisan in nature and the measure of ideology is identity-based. Moreover, we find that operational ideological extremism is negatively related to nonpartisan conspiracy beliefs. Our findings help reconcile discrepant findings regarding the relationship between political orientations and conspiracy beliefs.
Article
What are the underlying cognitive mechanisms that support belief in conspiracies? Common dual-process perspectives suggest that deliberation helps people make more accurate decisions and decreases belief in conspiracy theories that have been proven wrong (therefore, bringing people closer to objective accuracy). However, evidence for this stance is i) mostly correlational and ii) existing causal evidence might be influenced by experimental demand effects and/or a lack of suitable control conditions. Furthermore, recent work has found that analytic thinking tends to increase the coherence between prior beliefs and new information, which may not always lead to accurate conclusions. In two studies (Study 1: N = 1028; Study 2: N = 1000), participants were asked to evaluate the strength of conspiracist (or non-conspiracist) explanations of events. In the first study, which used well-known conspiracy theories, deliberation had no effect. In the second study, which used relatively unknown conspiracy theories, we found that experimentally manipulating deliberation did increase belief accuracy - but only among people with a strong ‘anti-conspiracy’ or strong ‘pro-conspiracy’ mindset from the beginning, and not among those with an intermediate conspiracist mindset. Although these results generally support the idea that encouraging people to deliberate can help to counter the growth of novel conspiracy theories, they also indicate that the effect of deliberation on conspiracist beliefs is more complicated than previously thought.
Article
“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” So wrote Francis Church, an editor of The (New York) Sun in 1897 responding to an 8‐year‐old’s question, “Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus . . . Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” He continued: “Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.”
Technical Report
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Conspiracy theories on climate change and the energy transition have found a stronghold on the Internet. Many online discussions are dominated by a few users with extreme beliefs, such as attributing secret agendas to powerful elites, governments not telling the truth, or sinister intentions of activists and lobbyists. As such beliefs largely dominate online discussions, they do also disadvantages other, more average, and less vocal users. Studies have found that people who were exposed to conspiracy theories about climate change reported less intention to reduce their carbon footprint, because the effect of these theories sparked not only feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty towards climate change, but also feelings of disappointment in climate scientists. Conspiracy theories play thus also an increasing role in slowing down the energy transition and have even led to violent and destructive behaviour. This explorative study provides an overview of the occurrence of extreme beliefs regarding climate change and energy transition.
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