The impact of conspiracy beliefs on a targeted group: Perceived popularity of Jewish-targeted conspiracy beliefs elicits outgroup avoidant behaviours

Daniel Jolley*, Jenny L. Paterson, Andrew McNeill

*Corresponding author for this work

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In three studies with Jewish participants, we explored the consequences of intergroup conspiracy theories on those targeted. In Study 1 (N = 250), perceived Jewish conspiracy theory popularity was positively associated with intergroup threat and negatively associated with the closeness of contact with non-Jewish people. Study 2 (n = 194) employed an experimental design where Jewish participants were exposed to the idea that many (vs. few) non-Jewish people believe in Jewish conspiracy theories. A path model demonstrated that exposure to the many (vs. few) manipulation increased intergroup threat, which was then positively associated with emotional reactions. Intergroup anxiety and ingroup anger were then positively associated with avoidance, whilst ingroup anxiety was positively associated with approach tendencies. Study 3 (n = 201) used the same experimental design, and a path model revealed that conspiracy popularity increased intergroup threat which, in turn, was positively associated with ingroup anger and anxiety. Ingroup anxiety was then associated with intentions to help ingroup members. Notably, conspiracy popularity rendered participants less likely to interact with a non-Jewish partner in a behavioural task. Our work provides evidence that conspiracy beliefs, especially when perceived to be widely held, are likely to significantly impact targeted ingroup members.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-362
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date3 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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