Previous studies have down that erroneous Conspiracy Theory (CT) beliefs develop more strongly in people who have underlying conspiratorial reasoning styles and psychopathological traits and particularly when they are faced with stressful external events (Swami et al., 2013; van Prooijen, 2018). In this study, we test this proposition by examining the individual differences associated with the development of COVID-19-related CT beliefs during the pandemic. A total of 660 adults completed a survey that captured COVID–related CT beliefs and broader conspiracy beliefs, education, perceived stress and attitudes towards government responses. The results showed that COVID-19 related CT beliefs were: strongly related to broader CT beliefs, higher in those with lower levels of education; and, positively (although weakly) correlated with more negative attitudes towards government responses. However, no relationship was found between COVID-19 beliefs and self-reported stress. These findings hold implications for why some people are more likely to be resistant to public health interventions relating to COVID-19. The findings encourage more detailed exploration of the causes and sources of CTs and, in particular, the role of social media use and other information sources in the development and perpetuation of health-related CT beliefs.
- Conspiracy theories
- Perceived stress