“If they believe, then so shall I”: Perceived beliefs of the in-group predict conspiracy theory belief

Cookson, Darel, Jolley, Daniel, Dempsey, Robert and Povey, Rachel (2021) “If they believe, then so shall I”: Perceived beliefs of the in-group predict conspiracy theory belief. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 24 (5). pp. 759-782. ISSN 1368-4302

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430221993907


Conspiracy beliefs are widespread and can have detrimental consequences. As perceived social norms can exert a powerful influence on individuals, we investigated the relationship between perceived norms of conspiracy beliefs and personal endorsement and whether conspiracy belief amongst others is overestimated. In Study 1, UK university students (n = 111) completed measures of their personal conspiracy beliefs and estimations of others’ beliefs (an in-group and out-group they chose, and a prescribed in-group). The perceived belief of the in-groups strongly predicted personal conspiracy belief; the out-group did not. Study 2 and 3 replicated these findings in a British community sample (n = 177) and a UK parent sample (n = 197) focusing on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. All studies demonstrated that people overestimate the conspiracy beliefs of others. This is the first demonstration of the association between perceived social norms of in-group conspiracy belief and individuals’ personal conspiracy beliefs. Interventions challenging misperceived norms could be effective in reducing conspiracy beliefs.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: misperceptions, social identification, social norms, Conspiracy theories
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2021 12:20
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2021 15:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/45297

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