Could autistic traits be a risk factor for conspiracy beliefs? An analysis of cognitive style and information seeking behavior

Neophytos Georgiou, Paul H. Delfabbro, Ryan Balzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Conspiracy theories (CTs) have proliferated in recent years due to the ease with which information can now be disseminated via social media. Research indicates that a much-focused attention on specific topics or information can increase risk of conspiracy reasoning. Given that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits are known to display these tendencies, this paper examined whether the pattern of information-searching, and socio-cognitive factors associated with CTbeliefs, differ for people with people scoring lower and higher on ASD traits. METHODS: From a sample of 508 adults recruited from an international online panel. The study included measures of conspiracy beliefs, ASD traits, as well as measures of information searching and cognitive style. RESULTS: People with stronger ASD traits were found to endorse CTbeliefs more strongly. The results suggest differences between ASD and non-ASD cases in relation to socio-cognitive factors such as: A person's comfort with ambiguity, their mindedness, and their tendency to engage in analytical or intuitive thinking which could account for this difference in beliefs. CONCLUSIONS: The findings raise the possibility that ASD traits may be a potential risk factor for the development of CT beliefs with specific cognitive factors identified as mechanisms to explain this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalMinerva Psychiatry
Volume62
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cognition
  • Social media

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