Media ReleaseFrom: PLOS
A conspiracy theory refers to an alternative explanation of an event involving a conspirator plot organised by powerful people or organisations. Belief in conspiracy theories is related to negative societal outcomes such as poor medical decisions and a decrease in prosocial behaviour. Given these negative outcomes, researchers have explored predictors of belief in conspiracy theories in an attempt to understand and possibly manage these beliefs.
In the current study, we explored the utility of personality in predicting belief in conspiracy theories. The aim of the current study was to explore the utility of the odd beliefs/magical thinking subtype of schizotypy, Machiavellianism, grandiose narcissism, vulnerable narcissism, primary psychopathy, and secondary psychopathy in predicting belief in conspiracy theories. Participants (N = 230; 44.7% male, 55.3% female) completed an anonymous, confidential online questionnaire which comprised demographics and measures of personality traits and belief in conspiracy theories. The total regression model indicated odd beliefs/magical thinking, trait Machiavellianism, and primary psychopathy were significant, positive predictors of belief in conspiracy theories. No other predictors reached significance.
Results of the current study highlight individuals who might be more susceptible to believing conspiracy theories. Specifically, these results indicate that the individual more likely to believe in conspiracy theories may have unusual patterns of thinking and cognitions, be strategic and manipulative, and display interpersonal and affective deficits.