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People do change their beliefs about conspiracy theories—but not often

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posted on 2024-02-19, 04:36 authored by Matt N Williams, Mathew Ling, John R Kerr, Stephen R Hill, Mathew MarquesMathew Marques, Hollie Mawson, Edward JR Clarke

Recent research has produced a significant body of knowledge about the antecedents and consequences of individual differences in belief in conspiracy theories. What is less clear, however, is the extent to which individuals’ beliefs in conspiracy theories vary over time (i.e., within-person variation). In this descriptive and exploratory study, we therefore aimed to describe within-person variability in belief in conspiracy theories. We collected data from 498 Australians and New Zealanders using an online longitudinal survey, with data collected at monthly intervals over 6 months (March to September 2021). Our measure of conspiracy theories included items describing ten conspiracy theories with responses on a 5-point Likert scale. While there was substantial between-person variance, there was much less within-person variance (intraclass r = 0.91). This suggests that beliefs in conspiracy theories were highly stable in our sample. This stability implies that longitudinal studies testing hypotheses about the causes and consequences of belief in conspiracy theories may require large samples of participants and time points to achieve adequate power. It also implies that explanations of belief in conspiracy theories need to accommodate the observation that beliefs in such theories vary much more between people than within people.

History

Publication Date

2024-02-15

Journal

Scientific Reports

Volume

14

Article Number

3836

Pagination

10p.

Publisher

Springer Nature

ISSN

2045-2322

Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2024 This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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