The influence of conspiracy information: Beliefs & Intentions

Conspiracy theories are influential. Empirical work, both of my own and other scholars have indeed shown that this is the case. Whilst watching “Did we land on the moon” on channel 5 last night, I therefore wondered what influence this documentary could have on someone’s beliefs about the moon landing, since it appeared to be very pro-conspiracy focused. For example,  a series of studies co-authored by Karen Douglas and myself, which are due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, have shown that after exposure to pro-conspiracy information (i.e., information that supports conspiracy theories concerning governmental or climate change conspiracies) participants were more likely to endorse a variety of conspiracy theories (i.e., 9/11, Diana etc.), relative to those who were exposed to anti-conspiracy information, or who were in a control condition. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that this exposure can also influence a person’s behavioural intentions – specifically being detrimental for intentions concerning political engagement and environmental campaigns. Therefore, this research reveals that exposure to conspiracy theories can have potentially important social consequence.

moon

Furthermore, previous empirical research has demonstrated a similar trend. Douglas and Sutton (2008) exposed participants to conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana. They found that participants were then more inclined to endorse conspiracy theories, even though they perceived that their beliefs had not changed. That is, they rated the beliefs in others being influenced by the conspiracy information, but not their own beliefs. These findings therefore demonstrate that conspiracy theories can have a ‘hidden impact’ (p.217) on people’s attitude. Another empirical example is from research conducted by Butler, Koopman and Zimbardo (1995), where they found that people who had viewed the film JFK, which documents several conspiracy theories, were more likely to believe JFK conspiracies, relative to those who had not viewed the film.

vote

From these brief empirical examples, this demonstrates that some wariness about conspiracy theories may indeed be warranted. This relates to both the serious behavioural intentions being influenced, but also one’s attitudes concerning significant events. Therefore, whilst watching the documentary last night, I wondered about how far this could be influencing the viewers’ beliefs on the moon landing. Further, I wondered whether they were even aware that their beliefs may have even been influenced, and subsequently potentially their behavioural intentions too. Conspiracy theories are a fascinating topic, but wariness needs to be taken when being exposed to such pro-conspiracy information in the absence of information supporting mainstream accounts.

References

Butler, L. D., Koopman, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1995). The psychological impact of viewing the film JFK: Emotions, beliefs and political behavioral intentions. Political Psychology, 16, 237–257. doi:10.2307/3791831

Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2011). Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50, 544–552. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2010.02018.x

Jolley, D. & Douglas, K.M. (2013). The social consequences of conspiracism: Exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprint. British Journal of Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12018

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Events, Social psychology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The influence of conspiracy information: Beliefs & Intentions

  1. Your approach suffers from polarization as you group conspiracies into one and group people believing in conspiracies into negative category and implying as if it might be posing some sort of threat. Of course people who were unaware of some facts will start wondering and questioning after emergence of new information that they didn’t know. Most conspiracies don’t prove jack, they only propose alternative explanations for events. How come religion is not considered conspiracy theory?

    • “Most conspiracies don’t prove jack, they only propose alternative explanations for events”

      There are examples of how negatively conspiracy theory belief affects peoples lives all over the free domain internet and official news channels on daily basis. To try and underplay the negative affects of conspiratorial beliefs on people and their families is insincere.

      “How come religion is not considered conspiracy theory?”

      Because religious belief comes under the jurisdiction of cultic belief processes and even according to individuals such as Robert Sopolsky it can be classified as a schizotypal personality disorder. It is a completely different subject to conspiracy theory belief, although religious beliefs could be one of the core reasons people believe certain conspiracy theories.

      • Also regarding religious beliefs I neglected to mention that Michael Shermer and other make the claims that humans are predisposed to agenticity. which would imply that the human brain is neurologically networked to apply agenticity to the unexplained. This does bring up some interesting thinking when it comes to how humanity has progressed and even to the scientific questions that have no current answers.

        Why people attribute invisible agents to their occurrence could fall inline with this neurological brain artefact if it were proven fact,. It even attempts to explain the tendency of the human mind to opt for large scale for tragedies being given explanations such as an invisible new world order. It is a very similar way of thinking, and doesn’t require too much effort or logical leaps to dissect them with the same scrutiny.

    • hybridrogue1 says:

      “Your approach suffers from polarization as you group conspiracies into one and group people believing in conspiracies into negative category and implying as if it might be posing some sort of threat.”~redecomposition

      Well, that is the ‘Program’ as designed by CIA, see: CIA Document 1035-960
      ‘Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report’

      Minutes of CIA meeting that same year indicated fear that Garrison would win a conviction.
      More generally, Operation Mockingbird was the CIA’s secret program to plant stories in the nation’s most prestigious news outlets.

      “With this [CIA] memo and the CIA’s influence in the media,” author Peter Janney wrote, “the concept of ‘conspiracy theorist’ was engendered and infused into our political lexicon and became what it is today: a term to smear, denounce, ridicule, and defame anyone who dares to speak about any crime committed by the state, military or intelligence services.”

      Janney, whose late father Wistar Janney had been a high-ranking CIA executive, continued: “People who want to pretend that conspiracies don’t exist — when in fact they are among the most common modus operandi of significant historical change throughout the world and in our country — become furious when their naive illusion is challenged.”

      \\][//

  2. Pingback: Conspiracy beliefs and TV licences: Who knew? | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

  3. Pingback: Conspiracy beliefs and TV licences | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

  4. Pingback: “The Great Green Con”: Pro-conspiracy information within the media | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

  5. Very good Web-site, Stick to the wonderful work.
    Appreciate it.

  6. G says:

    The obvious hypothesis that CT is “contagious” is incomplete: the more accurate version is that emotions in general are “contagious” and moods affect perception of subsequent stimuli.

    This is consistent with the neurochemical basis of emotion. If you induce an emotion in someone and then expose them to a stimulus, the emotion will affect their response to the stimulus until the emotion wears off. The half-life of emotions (i.e. of the neurochemicals that induce them) should be reflected in changes to the answers to questions at various distance of time after exposure to the emotion-inducing stimulus.

    So let’s try the converse test: Expose people to a film of JFK’s “we go to the Moon because it’s hard” speech (which we expect should induce feelings of pride, patriotism, etc.) and then ask a few questions about JFK including the same question about the assassination. That would also be a good film to use for questions about the Moon landing itself.

    And let’s also try a test where the subjects are split into groups, and each group is given the questionnaire at one specific time following exposure to the stimulus: immediately, +1 hour, +2 hours, +3 hours, +4 hours, +5 hours, +6 hours, and the following day. If my hypothesis is correct, we should expect a decline in “emotional agreement with stimulus” proportional to time, falling off sharply after 4 hours.

    • There is a correlation with cognitive errors and extremist views. The topic is covered and cited in the following journal entry.

      Giving Debiasing Away : Can Psychological Research on Correcting Cognitive Errors Promote Human Welfare?
      Scott O. Lilienfeld, Rachel Ammirati, and Kristin Landfield

      Also the cognitive errors are responsible for suspicious thinking and conspiracist beliefs. These are covered in journals by T goertzel, C.French and various other researchers.

      The subject is far more complicated than mere emotional triggers, although they do play a part in the problem certainly.

  7. Heya are using WordPress for your site platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and
    create my own. Do you require any coding knowledge to make your own blog?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Jimmy says:

    I see a lot of interesting posts on your website. You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of time, there is a tool that
    creates unique, SEO friendly articles in couple of seconds, just type in google – laranita’s free
    content source

    • hybridrogue1 says:

      Biological Automatons are already writing this agitprop Jimmy, these software robot authors would put them out of a good paying position.
      \\][//

  9. certainly like your web site however you need to take a look
    at the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
    Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find
    it very troublesome to tell the reality on the other hand I’ll surely come again again.

  10. hybridrogue1 says:

    “Conspiracy theories are a fascinating topic, but wariness needs to be taken when being exposed to such pro-conspiracy information in the absence of information supporting mainstream accounts.”~Daniel Jolley

    The only way that there could be an ‘absence of information supporting mainstream accounts’ would be if people make the wise decision to stop watching television, and listening to corporatist news on the radio. As the Internet becomes more and more popular as a source for information the more people will be waking up and making such a wise decision. And this is precisely why the agitprop from Sin City is ramping up on that very Internet.

    “they found that people who had viewed the film JFK, which documents several conspiracy theories, were more likely to believe JFK conspiracies, relative to those who had not viewed the film.”~Jolley

    Lol … elementary my dear Watson, the film JFK was the first exposure to some of the real facts of the case of the assassination. Much of the influence and knowledge portrayed in that film comes from Flethcher Prouty, who is the model for Mr X, that the Garrison character meets in DC.

    Prouty was the guy on Gen Landsdale’s staff who was sent out of the office to New Zealand to get him out of the way, as Prouty would recognize instantly that it had to have been Landsdale, the master of Coup d’Etats that was behind the JFK hit. Prouty did see this immediately, and his being in NZ at the time was in a sense a god-send, for the NZ papers come out ahead of US news because of the time zone difference. The information on Oswald was remarkable, unless it had been assembled and presented to the world press as the assassination was taking place – or even before hand. Very suspicious.
    Anyone who wants the inside scoop on the JFK assassination must read THE SECRET TEAM by Prouty.
    \\][//

    • hybridrogue1 says:

      And I would like to add, that I find the “moon hoax” theory untenable. It is a very sloppy argument making an extraordinary claim with nothing but conjecture as premise.

      One way to build up an immunity to such stimulation as your test subjects are submitted to is to have a well rounded knowledge base. Within this knowledge base would be the research on the effects of watching television. Just like knowing the effects of trying to breath under water will give you the knowledge to hold your breath before going under – the knowledge of the emotional seduction of the alpha spectrum can clue one into holding your consciousness before going under the hypnotic spell of the electronic voodoo of TV.
      \\][//

  11. Hildegard says:

    I read a lot of interesting posts here. Probably you spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save
    you a lot of work, there is an online tool that creates high quality, google friendly
    articles in seconds, just type in google – laranitas free content source

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s