PRIMS-DISSERTATION-2021.pdf (1.35 MB)
Call it a Conspiracy: How Conspiracy Belief Predicts Recognition of Conspiracy Theories
thesisposted on 2021-05-01, 00:00 authored by JP Prims
While conspiracy theories are treated as irrational fringe beliefs in popular culture, over 50% of the US population believes at least one conspiracy theory (Oliver & Wood, 2014). Given the disconnect between stereotypes and prevalence, I tested whether people have difficulty recognizing the conspiracy theories that they believe as conspiracy theories. Across two studies I demonstrate that people have considerable difficulty identifying conspiracy theories they believe as conspiracy theories, particularly when they do not take much time to consider whether their beliefs might be conspiracy theories. This is consistent with the notion that people experience “conspiracy blindness.” People have trouble recognizing the conspiracy theories they believe as conspiracy theories because they do not take the time to consider whether their beliefs might be conspiracy theories. In Study 2, I demonstrate that people can overcome their conspiracy blindness and recognize the conspiracy theories they believe as conspiracy theories when they are given a definition for “conspiracy theory” and asked to consider their answer. This suggests that people are typically ignorant of their own conspiracy beliefs, but capable of recognizing them when given the tools and motivation to do so.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
Degree namePhD, Doctor of Philosophy
Committee MemberDemos, Alexander Stahl, Tomas Cervone, Daniel Uscinski, Joseph
Submitted dateMay 2021