Conspiracy theories start to take hold at age 14, study suggests

Daniel Jolley, Karen M. Douglas, Yvonne Skipper

Research output: Other contribution

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Abstract

Conspiracy theories tend to prosper in times of crisis. When people are looking for ways to cope with uncertainty and threat, conspiracy theories may seem to offer simple answers. However, instead of making things better, conspiracy theories often make things worse.

Over the course of history, conspiracy theories have been linked to conflict, prejudice, genocide and the rejection of important scientific advances. Recently, belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories (such as that the virus is a hoax) have been linked to vaccine rejection and reluctance to take action to stop the spread of the virus.

However, despite their significance, we know almost nothing about how conspiracy theories affect children, or how beliefs in conspiracy theories change across the lifespan. This is because existing research on the psychology of conspiracy theories has only been conducted with adults. Scientists have not been able to study conspiracy beliefs in children because age-appropriate research methods have not been available.

We decided it was time to address this issue by developing a questionnaire suitable for young people. We have called it the adolescent conspiracy beliefs questionnaire.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline piece
PublisherThe Conversation Trust
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021

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