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Title: Connections and contradictions : the social psychology of conspiracy theories
Author: Wood, Michael James
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2013
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Conspiracy theories are an ever more prominent part of modern social and political discourse. While an increasing amount of psychological research has been devoted to investigating the determinants of conspiracism, there is no overarching theoretical perspective that can unify the field's disparate findings . In the present thesis, we develop and test a novel theoretical framework that we call extended monological belief system theory. The theory, based on well-established models of cognitive consistency and parallel constramt satisfaction, proposes that beliefs in conspiracy theories are best understood as fairly vague outward manifestations of broader underlying beliefs and attitudes which together serve to construct a conspiratorial worldview. In a series often empirical studies we demonstrate that contradictory conspiracy theories are correlated in belief, that these correlations are at least partially explained by higher-order beliefs, and that the correlations are not reliably found for conventional explanations; that conspiracists prefer to make arguments based on refuting official narratives rather than proposing specific alternatives; and that interpersonal suspicion appears to be a natural outcome of reading pro-conspiracist persuasive texts. Moreover, connectionist models built on the architecture of the model accurately predicted behavioural responses to fictitious conspiracy scenarios. The results indicate that the degree to which Someone believes in a conspiracy theory is determined less by the details of the theory and more by the degree to which the theory matches that person's higher-order beliefs. Based on these results and on the current state of the literature on the psychology of conspiracism, we propose that extended monological belief system theory can be used as a framework for understanding the contributions of beliefs, attitudes, individual-difference variables, and various other contributors to beliefs in conspiracy theories.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available