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How paranoid are conspiracy believers? Toward a more fine-grained understanding of the connect and disconnect between paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories

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Public discourse and scholarly literature often make a strong connection between paranoid thought and belief in conspiracy theories. We report one meta‐analysis and two correlational studies across two distinct cultural contexts (total N = 578) to provide an estimate for their association but also evidence for their distinctiveness via a multi‐trait‐multi‐method approach. Whereas the meta‐analysis (k = 11 studies) provided support for a reliable association between paranoia and conspiracy beliefs, the two additional studies provide direct evidence for their distinctiveness and divergent associations with other constructs. Although both assume sinister intentions of others, beliefs in conspiracy theories are more specific in who these others are (powerful groups) than paranoia (everyone). In contrast, paranoia was more restricted in terms of who the target of the negative intentions is (the self) than conspiracy theorizing (society as a whole). In light of this and distinct associations of conspiracy beliefs with political control and trust but not (inter‐)personal control and trust (like paranoia), we propose to treat the two as distinct (albeit correlated) constructs with conspiracy beliefs reflecting a political attitude compared to paranoia as a self‐relevant belief. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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... Some researchers have suggested that paranoid ideation (thinking that is dominated by suspicious or persecutory content, and a symptom of several clinical disorders) might link clinical issues to conspiracy beliefs. Indeed, at least twenty studies have documented a relationship between paranoid ideation and conspiracy beliefs 59,60 and meta-analyses demonstrate a medium-sized relationship 46 (Fig. 2). However, there are important empirical and conceptual differences between conspiracy beliefs and paranoid ideation 59,61 . ...
... Indeed, at least twenty studies have documented a relationship between paranoid ideation and conspiracy beliefs 59,60 and meta-analyses demonstrate a medium-sized relationship 46 (Fig. 2). However, there are important empirical and conceptual differences between conspiracy beliefs and paranoid ideation 59,61 . Whereas paranoia implicates a broad range of sinister actors, conspiracy beliefs tend to specifically implicate powerful elites. ...
... CI, confidence interval. Data taken from refs.46,59,81,102,135 . ...
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... Jolley et al. (2020) showed that belief in these types of anti-Jewish conspiracies also indirectly increased prejudice toward other outgroups. These social motivations are what differentiates a conspiracy theory from other kinds of paranoia, which tend to pertain to threats against oneself (Imhoff & Lamberty, 2018), rather than a group. ...
... Suspiciousness was also a significant predictor but there was a weaker correlation than with unusual beliefs and experiences. Paranoid thought may have a mediating effect on certain personality traits and CT belief (Cichocka et al., 2016), although Imhoff and Lamberty (2018) distinguished important differences between the two constructs. Paranoid belief tends to identify malicious actors broadly, whereas CTs specify a small group. ...
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Im ersten Teil dieses Buches stand das Ausmaß des Autoritarismus bei Jugendlichen in verschiedenen Ländern im Zentrum des Interesses. Es wurde versucht verschiedene Facetten des Autoritarismus zu erfassen um der Vielschichtigkeit des Konzeptes Rechnung zu tragen. Hierzu wurde eine Vielzahl von Items verwendet.
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Powerful societal leaders - such as politicians and Chief Executives - are frequently met with substantial distrust by the public. But why are people so suspicious of their leaders? One possibility is that 'power corrupts', and therefore people are right in their reservations. Indeed, there are numerous examples of unethical leadership, even at the highest level, as the Watergate and Enron scandals clearly illustrate. Another possibility is that people are unjustifiably paranoid, as underscored by some of the rather far-fetched conspiracy theories that are endorsed by a surprisingly large portion of citizens. Are societal power holders more likely than the average citizen to display unethical behaviour? How do people generally think and feel about politicians? How do paranoia and conspiracy beliefs about societal power holders originate? In this book, prominent scholars address these intriguing questions and illuminate the many facets of the relations between power, politics and paranoia.
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“Even paranoids have enemies.” So (reportedly) said the fourth Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, to Henry Kissinger during the 1973 Sinai talks. The point is, of course, that while paranoia is typically considered to describe a pathological disjunction between persecutory belief and reality, this is not necessarily so. There are numerous historical and contemporary examples of situations in which one group of people really are out to get others (for example, the McCarthyist persecution of supposed communist sympathizers in the 1950s, and numerous pogroms). Indeed, this is a point repeatedly made about conspiracy by laypeople, often in defense of their belief in conspiracy, and scholars, often in defense of their thesis concerning conspiracy belief (see Coady, 2006). Under some circumstances, there really has been a conspiracy going on behind the conspiracy theory. Our aim in this chapter is not to discuss whether or not paranoia or conspiracy belief is legitimate or rational (there are clearly cases where it may be), but rather to investigate why some people endorse conspiracy theories more than others. Specifically, we shall do this through consideration of several important individual difference variables that have been implicated as the foundation of a range of social and political attitudes and behaviors – social dominance orientation (SDO) (Sidanius and Pratto, 1999) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) (Altemeyer, 1981, 1996) – that together comprise a particularly powerful explanatory package (Altemeyer, 1998; Duckitt, 2001; McFarland and Adelson, 1996). At the same time, we shall attempt to illustrate the role that paranoia might play in the process.