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Beyond “monologicality”? Exploring conspiracist worldviews

Franks, Bradley, Bangerter, Adrian, Bauer, Martin W., Hall, Matthew and Noort, Mark C. (2017) Beyond “monologicality”? Exploring conspiracist worldviews. Frontiers in Psychology, 8 (861). ISSN 1664-1078

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Identification Number: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00861

Abstract

Conspiracy theories (CTs) are widespread ways by which people make sense of unsettling or disturbing cultural events. Belief in CTs is often connected to problematic consequences, such as decreased engagement with conventional political action or even political extremism, so understanding the psychological and social qualities of CT belief is important. CTs have often been understood to be “monological,” displaying the tendency for belief in one conspiracy theory to be correlated with belief in (many) others. Explanations of monologicality invoke a nomothetical or “closed” mindset whereby mutually supporting beliefs based on mistrust of official explanations are used to interpret public events as conspiracies, independent of the facts about those events (which they may ignore or deny). But research on monologicality offers little discussion of the content of monological beliefs and reasoning from the standpoint of the CT believers. This is due in part to the “access problem”: CT believers are averse to being researched because they often distrust researchers and what they appear to represent. Using several strategies to address the access problem we were able to engage CT believers in semi-structured interviews, combining their results with analysis of media documents and field observations to reconstruct a conspiracy worldview – a set of symbolic resources drawn on by CT believers about important dimensions of ontology, epistemology, and human agency. The worldview is structured around six main dimensions: the nature of reality, the self, the outgroup, the ingroup, relevant social and political action, and possible future change. We also describe an ascending typology of five types of CT believers, which vary according to their positions on each of these dimensions. Our findings converge with prior explorations of CT beliefs but also revealed novel aspects: A sense of community among CT believers, a highly differentiated representation of the outgroup, a personal journey of conversion, variegated kinds of political action, and optimistic belief in future change. These findings are at odds with the typical image of monological CT believers as paranoid, cynical, anomic and irrational. For many, the CT worldview may rather constitute the ideological underpinning of a nascent pre-figurative social movement.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://journal.frontiersin.org/journal/psychology
Additional Information: © 2017 The Authors © CC BY 4.0
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2017 10:18
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2019 02:27
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/82099

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