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Belief in Conspiracies Can Lead to Contradictions

Belief in Conspiracy Theories Can Lead to Contradictions Distrust and paranoia about government has a long history in the U.S and can lead to suspicion about claims made by authorities and belief in conspiracies.

Now, a new study suggests that the attraction to conspiracy theories can lead some to endorse entirely contradictory beliefs.

Researchers discovered people who endorse conspiracy theories see authorities as fundamentally deceptive. This belief that the “official story” is untrue can lead people to believe several alternative theories – despite contradictions among them.

“Any conspiracy theory that stands in opposition to the official narrative will gain some degree of endorsement from someone who holds a conspiracist worldview,” according to Drs. Michael Wood, Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton of the University of Kent’s psychology department.

To see if conspiracy views were strong enough to lead to inconsistencies, the researchers asked 137 college students about the death of Princess Diana.

The more people thought there “was an official campaign by the intelligence service to assassinate Diana,” the more they also believed that “Diana faked her own death to retreat into isolation.”

By the way, Diana cannot be simultaneously dead and alive.

The researchers wanted to know if the contradictory beliefs were due to suspicion of authorities, so they asked 102 college students about the death of Osama bin Laden.

People who believed that “when the raid took place, Osama bin Laden was already dead,” were significantly more likely to also believe that “Osama bin Laden is still alive.”

Researchers found this contradiction was associated with the belief that “actions of the Obama administration indicate that they are hiding some important or damaging piece of information about the raid.”

Thus, belief in a conspiracy is so strong that it blinds individuals who can then believe completely inconsistent ideas.

“For conspiracy theorists, those in power are seen as deceptive – even malevolent – and so any official explanation is at a disadvantage, and any alternative explanation is more credible from the start,” said the authors.

It is no surprise that fear, mistrust, and even paranoia can lead to muddled thinking; when distrust is engaged, careful reasoning can fall by the wayside.

“Believing Osama is still alive,” they write, ‘is no obstacle to believing that he has been dead for years.”

The research is found in the current issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Source: Sage

Woman looking out the blinds photo by shutterstock.

Belief in Conspiracies Can Lead to Contradictions

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Belief in Conspiracies Can Lead to Contradictions. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 27 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.