Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2017 Dec;26(6):538-542. doi: 10.1177/0963721417718261. Epub 2017 Dec 7.

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, University of Kent.

Abstract

What psychological factors drive the popularity of conspiracy theories, which explain important events as secret plots by powerful and malevolent groups? What are the psychological consequences of adopting these theories? We review the current research and find that it answers the first of these questions more thoroughly than the second. Belief in conspiracy theories appears to be driven by motives that can be characterized as epistemic (understanding one's environment), existential (being safe and in control of one's environment), and social (maintaining a positive image of the self and the social group). However, little research has investigated the consequences of conspiracy belief, and to date, this research does not indicate that conspiracy belief fulfills people's motivations. Instead, for many people, conspiracy belief may be more appealing than satisfying. Further research is needed to determine for whom, and under what conditions, conspiracy theories may satisfy key psychological motives.

KEYWORDS:

conspiracy belief; conspiracy theories; motives; needs

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center