Stress and belief in conspiracy theories

A recent a piece of research published by Viren Swami and colleagues has uncovered a link between feeling stressed and belief in conspiracy theories.

Paper2

Swami and colleagues gathered responses from over 400 people, where the responders completed various measures, such as indicating their perceived stress (over the last month), stressful life events (over last 6 months) and belief in conspiracy theories.  They found that more stressful life events and greater perceived stress predicted belief in conspiracy theories.

There are a couple of reasons proposed why this may be the case.  For example, when people experience stress (say a stressful life event), they may start thinking in a particular way such as seeing patterns when they do not exist, which may lead on to prompting a conspiratorial mind set.  Once this worldview has begun to develop therefore, belief in conspiracy theories are more easily reinforced.

Alternatively, the researchers suggest stress may not be the central driving force, but rather, the findings may be caused by a threat to a sense of control.  When an event happens; the death of JFK as an example, this causes people to feel a sense powerlessness, thus people may seek out conspiracy theories as a way to reinstall a sense of control.  The next step in the research is to examine the complex relationships between stress, control and belief in conspiracy theories in order to tease apart the mechanisms.

JFK

Investigating the associations between beliefs in conspiracy theories and factors such as stress is an important avenue of research. From my own work, we have highlighted the potential negative consequences of belief in, and exposure to, conspiracy theories.  It is therefore paramount that we strive to learn more about the psychology of conspiracy theories.

Of course conspiracy theories may offer several benefits.  They can be a way to gain a sense of control as suggested and can be said to promote transparency within authorities.  Conspiracy theories can also reduce the likelihood of people voting, taking action against climate change, and having a fictional child vaccinated.  In some of my most recent work, conspiracy theories can be used as a way to express negativity, alongside changing how we perceive other social groups.

As highlighted by Swami and colleagues therefore, examining belief in conspiracy theories remains an urgent issue for researchers and policy-makers.

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Personality, Social psychology, What's the harm, World events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Stress and belief in conspiracy theories

  1. Pingback: Stress and belief in conspiracy theories — The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories – TheThinkingHackers

  2. futuret says:

    I AM A PROUD AND STAUNCH CONSPIRACY REALIST. WE WHO ARE CONSPIRACY PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANY POLITICAL PARTY OR PLATFORM, WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANYBODY OR ANYTHING AS TO ALIGN OURSELVES, THEY ONLY THING WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IS THE TRUTH. WE LIVE, BREATHE, AND SEEK THE TRUTH; BECAUSE OF THIS WE ARE SPIRITUALLY MUCH HEALTHIER IN SOUL. THERE IS REALLY NO PSYCHOLOGY, ONLY VISUALIZING EVENTS AND THE REASONS BEHIND THEM; WE DO NOT MANIPULATE WE EXPOSE, THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE FOLKS. THE MANIPULATING OCCURS WITH THOSE THAT CREATE THE CONSPIRACIES THAT ALL OF US HAVE TO LIVE, AND SUFFER FROM TO ACHIEVE THE ULTIMATE SATANIC FORM OF TYRANNY. MOREOVER, I AM A MESSIANIC CHRISTIAN, IN WHICH CONSPIRACIES, ECT…IN NO WAY SHAKE MY FAITH. I KNOW THAT AT THE RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST, THERE SHALL ETERNALLY BE NO MORE CONSPIRACIES, AND I SHALL NO LONGER HAVE TO BE A CONSPIRACY REALIST; UNTIL THEN I REMAIN ONE, AND FOR ANY REASON I SHALL NOT ATTACH MYSELF POLITICALLY TO ANY PERSON AND/OR CONCEPT. EVIL AND CORRUPTION IS NOT WHAT MY SOUL ACCEPTS, AND A CITIZEN OF THE HEAVENS I SHALL BE.

  3. g888 says:

    ‘It must be remembered that the first job of any conspiracy, whether it be in politics, crime or within a business office, is to convince everyone else that no conspiracy exists. The conspirators’ success will be determined largely by their ability to do this.’
    — Gary Allen

    “Always, the people are responsible for wicked lawmakers, oppressors, exploiters, criminals in government, tyrants in power, thieves, liars, malefactors and murderers in the capitals of the world. You, the man in the street, the man in the factory and in the shop, the man on the farm, the man in the office, you, the man everywhere, are guilty of the creatures whose crimes against you have been so monstrous, and will be again, by your own consent — if you give it…”
    — Taylor Caldwell,”The Devil’s Advocate”(1952) — pgs. 332 — 338

  4. People who write about “conspiracy theories” in such a blithe and dismissive manner as this have a couple of things in common: One, they have never looked at any evidence, but rather uncritically accept and believe all they are told by mainstream sources (are extremely credulous); and two, they are remarkably incurious (dull).

    For credulous and dull people to write such blather about curious and insightful people not only insults our intelligence, but points at the problem of humanity in general: extreme gullibility to the point of craven stupidity. It is why throughout history young men have tossed their lives away in battle for causes they do not understand, and young widows have imagined it was done for sake of heroism rather than easy manipulation by smarter people.

  5. T bird says:

    Hello, I am finding the blog posts to be really fascinating. I have conducted research to try to understand why some people decide to accept medications recommended by their physician while others do not (in the context of a serious chronic illness). I’ve also found that maintaining a sense of control seems to play an important role in patients’ decision making process. And for those people who are considering alternative medicine options, it can play a role in how open they are to pursuing alternative medicines over the medicines recommended by their physician.

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