JOURNAL PUBLICATIONS

Exposure to intergroup conspiracy theories promotes prejudice which spreads across groups

Daniel Jolley, Rose Meleady and Karen Douglas

in press, British Journal of Psychology

You can access an open copy here.

In addition, we wrote a piece for The Conversation:

News article: Jolley, D. & Douglas, K. (2019). Conspiracy theories fuel prejudice towards minority groups. The Conversation.

Abstract: This research experimentally examined the effects of exposure to intergroup conspiracy theories on prejudice and discrimination. Study 1 (N = 166) demonstrated that exposure to conspiracy theories concerning immigrants to Britain from the European Union (vs. anti-conspiracy material or a control) exacerbated prejudice towards this group. Study 2 (N = 173) found the same effect in a different intergroup context—exposure to conspiracy theories about Jewish people (vs. anti-conspiracy material or a control) increased prejudice towards this group and reduced participants’ willingness to vote for a Jewish political candidate. Finally, Study 3 (N = 114) demonstrated that exposure to conspiracy theories about Jewish people not only increased prejudice towards this group but was indirectly associated with increased prejudice towards a number of secondary outgroups (e.g., Asians, Arabs, Americans, Irish, Australians). The current research suggests that conspiracy theories may have potentially damaging and widespread consequences for intergroup relations.


Belief in conspiracy theories and intentions to engage in everyday crime

Daniel Jolley, Karen Douglas, Ana Leite and Tanya Schrader

2019, British Journal of Social Psychology

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjso.12311

You can access an open copy here.

See some example media coverage here.

Abstract: Belief in conspiracy theories is associated with negative outcomes such as political disengagement, prejudice, and environmental inaction. The current studies – one cross‐sectional (= 253) and one experimental (= 120) – tested the hypothesis that belief in conspiracy theories would increase intentions to engage in everyday crime. Study 1 demonstrated that belief in conspiracy theories predicted everyday crime behaviours when controlling for other known predictors of everyday crime (e.g., Honesty–Humility). Study 2 demonstrated that exposure to conspiracy theories (vs. control) increased intentions to engage in everyday crime in the future, through an increased feeling of anomie. The perception that others have conspired may therefore in some contexts lead to negative action rather than inaction.


Blaming a few bad apples to save a threatened barrel: The system‐justifying function of conspiracy theories

Daniel Jolley, Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton

2018, Political Psychology

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12404

You can access an open copy here.

Abstract: This research demonstrates that conspiracy theories—often represented as subversive alternatives to establishment narratives—may bolster, rather than undermine, support for the social status quo when its legitimacy is under threat. A pilot study (N = 98) found a positive relationship between conspiracy belief and satisfaction with the status quo. In Study 1 (N = 120), threatening (vs. affirming) the status quo in British society caused participants to endorse conspiracy theories. In Study 2 (N = 159), exposure to conspiracy theories increased satisfaction with the British social system after this had been experimentally threatened. In Study 3 (N = 109), this effect was mediated by the tendency for participants exposed (vs. not exposed) to conspiracy theories to attribute societal problems relatively more strongly to small groups of people rather than systemic causes. By blaming tragedies, disasters, and social problems on the actions of a malign few, conspiracy theories can divert attention from the inherent limitations of social systems.


Prevention is better than cure: Addressing anti‐vaccine conspiracy theories

Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas

2017, Journal of Applied Social Psychology

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jasp.12453

You can access an open copy here.

Abstract: The current research tested if explicit anti‐conspiracy arguments could be an effective method of addressing the potentially harmful effects of anti‐vaccine conspiracy theories. In two studies, participants were presented with anti‐conspiracy arguments either before, or after reading arguments in favor of popular conspiracy theories concerning vaccination. In both studies, anti‐conspiracy arguments increased intentions to vaccinate a fictional child but only when presented prior to conspiracy theories. This effect was mediated by belief in anti‐vaccine conspiracy theories and the perception that vaccines are dangerous. These findings suggest that people can be inoculated against the potentially harmful effects of anti‐vaccine conspiracy theories, but that once they are established, the conspiracy theories may be difficult to correct.


The effects of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on vaccination intentions

Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas

2014, PLoSONE

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0089177 (open access)

Abstract: The current studies investigated the potential impact of anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs, and exposure to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, on vaccination intentions. In Study 1, British parents completed a questionnaire measuring beliefs in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and the likelihood that they would have a fictitious child vaccinated. Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities. In Study 2, participants were exposed to information that either supported or refuted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, or a control condition. Results revealed that participants who had been exposed to material supporting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories showed less intention to vaccinate than those in the anti-conspiracy condition or controls. This effect was mediated by the same variables as in Study 1. These findings point to the potentially detrimental consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and highlight their potential role in shaping health-related behaviors.


The social consequences of conspiracism: Exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one's carbon footprint

Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas

2014, British Journal of Psychology

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bjop.12018

You can access an open copy here.

Abstract: The current studies explored the social consequences of exposure to conspiracy theories. In Study 1, participants were exposed to a range of conspiracy theories concerning government involvement in significant events such as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Results revealed that exposure to information supporting conspiracy theories reduced participants' intentions to engage in politics, relative to participants who were given information refuting conspiracy theories. This effect was mediated by feelings of political powerlessness. In Study 2, participants were exposed to conspiracy theories concerning the issue of climate change. Results revealed that exposure to information supporting the conspiracy theories reduced participants' intentions to reduce their carbon footprint, relative to participants who were given refuting information, or those in a control condition. This effect was mediated by powerlessness with respect to climate change, uncertainty, and disillusionment. Exposure to climate change conspiracy theories also influenced political intentions, an effect mediated by political powerlessness. The current findings suggest that conspiracy theories may have potentially significant social consequences, and highlight the need for further research on the social psychology of conspiracism.