How Covid conspiracy theories can be explained and why understanding them is so important?

During the ongoing Covid-Pandemic conspiracy theories seem more prominent in public than ever before. A recent research paper by Gemenis (2021) deals with Covid conspiracy theories and scepticism and tries to explain how these beliefs came to be.

In his paper, Gemenis conducts an online survey in Greece in which he asks a variety of questions regarding other conspiratorial beliefs, political attitudes, trust in institutions, and general questions concerning socio-economic status and health. He conducted this survey through social media spread mainly through Facebook and ultimately reached 5.155 participants that completed the survey. His results show that conspiracy theories are best explained with the belief in other unrelated conspiracy theories while variables like political belief or age and gender have no clear and robust effect. It is therefore not a consequence of left or right political views, but general conspiratorial belief. Conspiracy theories form as other Studies, like Miller (2020), suggest a single belief system. Meaning if one believes in a conspiracy theory, he or she is also more likely to believe in other unrelated conspiracy theories.

This study and these findings are important in more than one way. First, studies like this one are important in understanding how conspiracy beliefs are formed, what enforces them, and ultimately what factors are important predictors of scepticism or conspiracy beliefs. This also leads to the second point: If we know how these beliefs form and what factors play an important role, programs that can help relatives or friends of conspiracy theorists deal with their beliefs or exit programs for conspiracy supporters can be set up. These programs can be more effective when backed by scientific knowledge about such beliefs and can help different people more thoroughly. Gemenis furthermore concludes that these findings can help to design better strategies to fight disinformation.

Even though this field must be researched more broadly and across country borders, it can help us understand and argue against conspiracy beliefs and ultimately help to reintegrate former conspiracy theorists back into ‘normal’ society.

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