Conspiracy theory beliefs, scientific reasoning and the analytical thinking paradox

Neophytos Georgiou, Paul Delfabbro, Ryan Balzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although many psychological and sociological factors have been implicated in the development of conspiracy theory (CT) beliefs, analytical thinking has been considered a key protective factor. However, it is not clear if engaging in systematic or rigorous information searching is always protective, particularly if this involves a confirmation bias or a lack of scientific reasoning. For example, higher scores on autistic traits, which are commonly associated with a tendency to engage in systematic information searching, have been found to be associated with stronger endorsement of CT beliefs. Here, we investigated whether measures of analytical reasoning need to be refined to focus specifically on scientific reasoning, as analytical thinking has recently shown a positive association with conspiracy beliefs. A total of 565 adults with varying levels of autistic traits, completed measures of CT beliefs, standard analytical reasoning and information searching measures, but also measures of scientific reasoning and belief flexibility (using the bias against disconfirmatory evidence or BADE task). We found that standard measures of analytical thinking and active-open minded thinking were positively associated with CT beliefs and autistic traits. Conversely, higher levels of scientific reasoning and belief flexibility were negatively associated with CT beliefs, autistic and schizotypal traits. The findings encourage the use of more focused measures of logical and scientific reasoning in both psychoeducation interventions and future research relating to CT beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1523-1534
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • analytical thinking
  • autistic traits
  • conspiracy beliefs
  • misinformation effect
  • schizotypy
  • scientific reasoning

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