Conspiracy Theory – Believing in Conspiracy Theories Doesn’t Reduce Anxiety

A study proves that believing in conspiracy theories does not reduce anxiety and feelings of threat, but increases them

Some people insist on believing that the Earth is flat, that the trip to the Moon was staged, or that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory and then controlled by microchips injected with vaccines and controlled by 5G antennas.

A common psychological explanation is that these beliefs are “functional”, that is, they have a beneficial effect on the believer because they provide a simple (albeit misguided) explanation for complex phenomena to understand, and therefore give a sense of security and safety. safety. reduce anxiety caused by uncertain circumstances. But is it really useful to believe in conspiracies to make yourself feel better?

This question forms the basis of a new research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The results, contrary to what was previously assumed, indicate that conspiracy theories do not reduce anxiety or help people deal with feelings of uncertainty and threat.

Scientists at the University of Osnabrück saw the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to study this phenomenon in detail. “Usually, people’s conspiracy beliefs are relatively stable over time. However, many new conspiracy theories were developed during the pandemic, and changes in these beliefs can be expected,” says lead author Lisa Liekefett.

People who believe in conspiracies are more anxious than other people

The research was carried out with two studies carried out in Germany, the first with 405 participants and the second with a sample of over 1,012 individuals, who were followed up through surveys. Both studies measured conspiracy mentality, that is, the general tendency to believe that important events are the result of conspiracies. Responses to statements such as “events that seem seemingly unconnected are often the result of covert activities” or “many very important things that happen in the world that are never reported to the public” were evaluated.

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But the researchers found no evidence that increases in conspiracy mindsets were associated with subsequent decreases in anxiety, uncertainty avoidance, or existential threat. Indeed, his first study provided evidence “that people who believe in conspiracies may suffer more because of their beliefs,” according to Liekefett.

According to the study, people who believe in conspiracies are more anxious than other people, deal worse with uncertainty and feel more threatened. So why do people believe them? According to the authors, “It is possible that conspiracy beliefs make people feel better in other ways, for example, by increasing self-esteem or providing social connections.”


Can conspiracy beliefs be beneficial? Longitudinal links between conspiracy beliefs, anxiety, uncertainty avoidance, and existential threat

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