Conspiracy Theories and Extremism

This project will make significant advances in understanding the relationship between beliefs in conspiracy theories and extremist causes, through demonstrating whether certain types of conspiracy theories are more closely aligned with violent intentions (e.g. belief in QAnon vs. flat-earth) as well as articulating the relevance of conspiracy and extremist beliefs to one another.

Previous survey-based research, conducted in Germany, by the project team showed that stronger conspiracy mentalities are associated with increased violent extremist tendencies. This relationship was much stronger for individuals exhibiting lower self-control, higher self-efficacy, and holding weaker law -related morality.

Lead by PI Professor Paul Gill and Co-PI Dr Bettina Rottweiler, this project builds on these foundations in a number of ways. First, through a systematic review/meta-analysis of the risk and protective factors for conspiracy theory beliefs. The results will be compared with a systematic review of risk and protective factors for violent extremist intentions conducted by the project team for a previous CREST grant in 2020. Second, it extends large-scale surveys and data collection on these topics into the United Kingdom. Third, the surveys will additionally collect information on specific conspiracy beliefs rather than general conspiracy mentalities. Fourth, the surveys will expand the range of risk and protective factors under scrutiny and will include existential needs, social identity, and personality (Survey 1), epistemic needs, media literacy, critical thinking and cognition (Survey 2), and a set of items generated through engagement with practitioners (Survey 3).

Project resources

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