Why do people adopt conspiracy theories, how are they communicated, and what are their risks?

This project is a multi-disciplinary literature review on the emergence, transmission, spread, and countering of conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories affect people’s perceptions, beliefs and actions and thus may influence whether people justify violent action, cooperate (or not) with a particular agency, or even justify a decision to go to war. This project will encompass different disciplinary perspectives – psychology, political science, sociology, and information engineering. It will consider how risks from conspiracy theories might vary across different areas of the world, across different political climates, at different levels (individual to state), and in different media (e.g., face to face vs online).

Research questions

  • Why do people adopt conspiracy theories? Psychological, political and social factors.
  • How are conspiracy theories communicated?
  • What are the risks associated with conspiracy theories?

Principal investigator

Professor Karen Douglas


University of Kent, UK