- Some conspiracy theories, for example the QAnon conspiracy, can be considered a minority belief, with a 2021 YouGov poll showing that 8% of those polled in the UK endorsed this conspiracy theory.
- People with high education levels, such as doctors and nurses, have been reported to propagate conspiracy theories.
- Read more:
How morbid curiosity can lead people to conspiracy theories
Research shows that our thinking style can be predictive of susceptibility to conspiracy theories. The dual processing theory of cognitive style suggests that we have two routes which we can use to process information. One route is the fast, intuitive route which leans more on personal experiences and gut feelings. The other route is a slower, more analytical route which instead relies on elaborative and detailed processing of information.
- It also found those who were less likely to engage in effortful thinking styles and more likely to use intuitive thinking showed a higher belief in conspiracy theories.
- Critical thinking is a valuable skill, particularly within education, and has been shown to buffer susceptibility to conspiracy beliefs.
Thinking style is not the same as intelligence
- A 2021 meta-analysis study indicates that an intuitive thinking style is unrelated to intelligence.
- So, even really smart people could be susceptible to conspiracy beliefs – if they are more inclined to revert to faster, intuitive thinking styles.
- First, conspiracy beliefs seem to be predicted by the flawed belief that big events must have big consequences.
- This is how thinking styles reliant on gut feelings and intuition can lead people to endorse conspiracy theories.
- However, these studies are helping researchers find interventions which can increase analytical and critical thinking styles and so buffer against susceptibility to such beliefs.
Darel Cookson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.