Measuring individual differences in generic beliefs in conspiracy theories across cultures: the Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire (CMQ)

Martin Bruder, Peter Haffke, Nick Neave, Nina Nouripanah, Roland Imhoff

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Abstract

Conspiracy theories are ubiquitous when it comes to explaining political events and societal phenomena. Individuals differ not only in the degree to which they believe in specific conspiracy theories, but also in their general susceptibility to explanations based on such theories, that is, their conspiracy mentality. We present the Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire (CMQ), an instrument designed to efficiently assess differences in the generic tendency to engage in conspiracist ideation within and across cultures. The CMQ is available in English, German, and Turkish. In four studies, we examined the CMQ’s factorial structure, reliability, measurement equivalence across cultures, and its convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity. Analyses based on a cross-cultural sample (Study 1a; N = 7,766) supported the conceptualization of conspiracy mentality as a one-dimensional construct across the three language versions of the CMQ that is stable across time (Study 1b; N = 141). Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated cross-cultural measurement equivalence of the CMQ items. The instrument could therefore be used to examine differences in conspiracy mentality between European, North American, and Middle Eastern cultures. In Studies 2–4 (total N = 476), we report (re-)analyses of three datasets demonstrating the validity of the CMQ in student and working population samples in the UK and Germany. First, attesting to its convergent validity, the CMQ was highly correlated with another measure of generic conspiracy belief. Second, the CMQ showed patterns of meaningful associations with personality measures (e.g., Big Five dimensions, schizotypy), other generalized political attitudes (e.g., social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism), and further individual differences (e.g., paranormal belief, lack of socio-political control). Finally, the CMQ predicted beliefs in specific conspiracy theories over and above other individual difference measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume4
Issue number225
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

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