I have done research on belief in COVID-19 conspiracy belief through a survey and a systematic review of the antecedents and consequences of these beliefs. We’re currently preparing a longitudinal study of the effect of COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs on wellbeing.
Review of COVID-19 conspiracy belief
Rationale. Belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories can have severe consequences; it is therefore crucial to understand this phenomenon, in its similarities with general conspiracy belief, but also in how it is context-dependent.
Objective. The aim of this systematic review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the available research on COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and to synthesise this research to make it widely accessible.
Method. We present a synthesis of COVID-19 conspiracy belief research from 85 international articles, identified and appraised through a systematic review, in line with contemporary protocols and guidelines for systematic reviews.
Results. We identify a number of potential antecedents of COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs (individual differences, personality traits, demographic variables, attitudes, thinking styles and biases, group identity, trust in authorities, and social media use) and their consequences (protective behaviours, self-centred and misguided behaviours such as hoarding and pseudoscientific health practices, vaccination intentions, psychological wellbeing, and other negative social consequences such as discrimination and violence), and the effect sizes of their relations with the conspiracy beliefs.
Conclusions. We conclude that understanding both the potential antecedents and consequences of conspiracy beliefs and how they are context-dependent is highly important to tackle them, whether in the COVID-19 pandemic or future threats, such as that of climate change.
- van Mulukom, V., Pummerer, L., Alper, S., Bai, M. H., Čavojová, V., Farias, J. E. M., Kay, C. S., Lazarevic, L., Lobato, E. J. C., Marinthe, G., Pavela Banai, I., Šrol, J. & Žeželj, I. (2022). Antecedents and consequences of COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs: a systematic review. Social Science & Medicine 301, 114912. DOI
Press & media
- Popular science article: ‘Young people may be more likely to believe in conspiracy theories that deny COVID facts – here’s how to respond’, The Conversation, 15 September 2022.
- Research blog post: ‘A cognitive profile of COVID-19 conspiracists’. Cognitive Science Society blog, 16 November 2020.
Low levels of trust and information
In this preprint I examine how conspiracy belief might constitute low levels of mainstream information due to a lack of trust in mainstream authorities, and what consequences this has. Abstract: Understanding how disease information influences engagement in protective health behaviours is crucial in the handling of pandemics, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic which has been branded an ‘infodemic’ due to the presence of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Here we investigate this through a large-scale survey in twelve countries (N = 7,755). We found, in line with our hypotheses, that scientific knowledge but not conspiracy belief predicted safety guideline behaviours, whereas conspiracy belief but not scientific knowledge predicted misguided, self-centred behaviours like hoarding. However, conspiracy belief also predicted safety guideline behaviours, possibly due to the threat a presumed artificially created virus presents. Trust in non-populist governments and scientists and their media predicted scientific knowledge, whereas distrust predicted conspiracy belief, together with trust in populist governments and social media. We conclude that the acceptance of scientific knowledge through trust is pivotal to adherence to safety guidelines during this and future health threats.
- van Mulukom, V. (preprint) Engagement in COVID-19 protective behaviours: A complex interaction of trust and information in twelve countries. PsyArXiv. DOI
Press & media
- Video interview: ‘Conspiracies: Has fiction replaced reality?’. Politics.co.uk, 06 October 2021.
- Opinion article: ‘Build trust to combat dangerous conspiracy theories’. Local Government Chronicle, 01 February 2021.