When do conspiracy theories shape behavioural intentions? The moderating role of the need to evaluate

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Abstract

Conspiracy theories can have detrimental effects on individuals' behaviour in various domains. Understanding when conspiracy beliefs affect behavioural intentions could help in tackling the negative consequences of conspiracy theories. We investigated how experimentally manipulating exposure to conspiracy theories affects individuals' specific conspiracy beliefs and, in turn, their behavioural intentions. Additionally, we tested the moderating role of the need to evaluate (NE), the dispositional tendency to engage in evaluative responding. We expected that the relationship between experimentally strengthened conspiracy beliefs and behavioural intentions would be stronger for high- (vs. low-) NE individuals. Across two studies (total N = 578), exposure to a conspiracy narrative increased specific conspiracy beliefs, which then affected behavioural intentions, but more strongly for those with a high (vs. low) need to evaluate. We find support for our conceptual model across two contexts (climate change, vaccination). Overall, these studies shed light on how the NE shapes the process by which exposure to conspiracy theories affects behavioural intentions, thereby suggesting that accounting for variables related to attitudes and other evaluative responses can help explain when conspiracy beliefs translate into behavioural intentions. These findings could potentially help inform interventions aimed at reducing the negative effects of conspiracy theories.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112481
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Volume218
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2024

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