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Conspiracy believers claim to be free thinkers but (Under)Use advice like everyone else


Altay, Sacha; Nera, Kenzo; Ejaz, Waqas; Schöpfer, Céline; Tomas, Frédéric (2023). Conspiracy believers claim to be free thinkers but (Under)Use advice like everyone else. British Journal of Social Psychology, 62(4):1782-1797.

Abstract

Conspiracy believers often claim to be critical thinkers their ‘own research’ instead of relying on others' testimony. In two preregistered behavioural studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Pakistan (N$_{participants}$ = 864, N$_{trials}$ = 5408), we test whether conspiracy believers have a general tendency to discount social information (in favour of their own opinions and intuitions). We found that conspiracy mentality is not associated with social information use in text‐based (Study 1) and image‐based (Study 2) advice‐taking tasks. Yet, we found discrepancies between self‐reported and actual social information use. Conspiracy believers were more likely to report relying less on social information than actually relying less on social information in the behavioural tasks. Our results suggest that the scepticism of conspiracy believers towards epistemic authorities is unlikely to be the manifestation of a general tendency to discount social information. Conspiracy believers may be more permeable to social influence than they sometimes claim.

Abstract

Conspiracy believers often claim to be critical thinkers their ‘own research’ instead of relying on others' testimony. In two preregistered behavioural studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Pakistan (N$_{participants}$ = 864, N$_{trials}$ = 5408), we test whether conspiracy believers have a general tendency to discount social information (in favour of their own opinions and intuitions). We found that conspiracy mentality is not associated with social information use in text‐based (Study 1) and image‐based (Study 2) advice‐taking tasks. Yet, we found discrepancies between self‐reported and actual social information use. Conspiracy believers were more likely to report relying less on social information than actually relying less on social information in the behavioural tasks. Our results suggest that the scepticism of conspiracy believers towards epistemic authorities is unlikely to be the manifestation of a general tendency to discount social information. Conspiracy believers may be more permeable to social influence than they sometimes claim.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:advice taking, conformity, conspiracy mentality, conspiracy theories, critical thinking, egocentric discounting, epistemic individualism, misinformation, social influence, social information
Language:English
Date:October 2023
Deposited On:04 Jan 2024 10:11
Last Modified:30 Apr 2024 01:45
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0144-6665
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12655