Columbus, Ohio – A new study claims that doubting the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic or generally believing that the entire crisis was a man-made hoax could act as a “gateway” to believing other conspiracy theories.
Ohio State University researchers say their findings show that people who reported greater belief in conspiracy theories about the pandemic were also more likely to believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump through acts of voter fraud.
The researchers add that their preliminary evidence suggests that feelings of mistrust may act as a trigger. They hypothesize that belief in a single conspiracy, driven by a single event, leads to an increase in conspiratorial thinking over time. Trends in the data also suggest that financial distress during the lockdown could have fueled belief in COVID conspiracy theories, even among people who didn’t think conspiratorial before the virus.
The field of conspiracy theory research is relatively new. Yet, you tend to look for traits that predict a tendency to believe conspiracy theories at a certain time.
says first author Javier Granados Samoa, who completed the work-study while a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State, in a University release. “With COVID-19, there has been a major event that people cannot control, so how can they make sense of it? One way is to stick to the conspiracy theories.”
Doubts about the coronavirus have led to long-term mistrust
The research team asked 501 participants in a June 2020 survey to answer questions that assess their beliefs in COVID-19 conspiracy theories, their political ideology, and so-called conspiracy ideas — or someone’s general endorsement of conspiracy theories.
In this section, participants used a five-point scale ranging from “definitely not true” to “certainly true” to rating statements such as “some Unidentified flying object sightings Rumors are planned or orchestrated in order to distract the public from real foreign contact” and “new and advanced technology that would harm the existing industry” is suppressed.
Six months later, in December 2020, researchers asked 107 of these participants to report how far they thought it was Voter fraud in the 2020 elections.
Statistical analysis showed that participants who reported greater belief that the coronavirus was Intentionally released for malicious purposes And that the severity of the COVID infection was disproportionate, it also reported a greater belief that the 2020 election had been stolen from then-President Trump.
Those same COVID skeptics were more inclined to other conspiracy theories than they did in the June survey six months ago, according to findings published in the journal PLUS ONE.
Do a person’s political beliefs matter?
This was true even after the analysis took into account the association between COVID conspiracy beliefsvoter fraud and conservative political views—leading researchers to suggest that belief in one conspiracy theory leads to another.
“It’s a guess, but it seems that once people adopt one conspiracy belief, it reinforces distrust of institutions in general — it could be government, science, media, or whatever,” says senior author Russell Fazio, professor of psychology at Ohio State. else”. “Once you start watching events through that dubious lens, it’s very easy to build additional conspiracy theories.”
The team also used data from a large British study conducted in early spring and late fall 2020, which shows that British adults who believe Covid is a hoax are also more likely to believe other conspiracy theories over time. While some previous conspiracy theories have been shown to be true, the researchers say this study focused on beliefs that are not supported by evidence.
Note that a better understanding of the dynamics of conspiratorial thinking can help stop Spread of conspiratorial thinkingwhich appears to be associated with increased risks of violence and discrimination and poorer health choices.
concludes Granados Samayawa, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.
Southwest News Service writer Danny Halpin contributed to this report.
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