Sociologists and political scientists have looked at why the term “conspiracy theory” has such a bad connotation, theorising that some people may use it to undermine competing viewpoints. Furthermore, many people regard the phrase as disparaging, according to psychological research.
Nonetheless, if the phrase “conspiracy theory” has a negative connotation, it is natural for people to ignore opinions labelled as such. This new psychological assessment, however, failed to detect this impact.
Anatomy of a conspiracy theory – The current study.
Karen M. Douglas and her colleagues looked into four different lines of research to evaluate four different choices. The researchers came to the conclusion that labelling something a “conspiracy theory” does not make it less credible; rather, people name something a “conspiracy theory” when they do not believe it is likely.
Labeling statements as conspiracy theories has no effect on people’s belief in them, according to the study. Although some experts assume the statement is used to criticise others’ opinions, evidence shows that this is not the case. The study was interested in the situations and motivations in which people use the term “conspiracy theory.”
170 respondents from the United States were given a list of assertions labelled as “conspiracy theories” or “ideas” in the first of two tests. Participants were asked to answer seven independent questions on each statement after it was read aloud. They assigned a score to the comment based on how likely they thought people would take it seriously, dismiss it, find it controversial, believe it, be chastised for believing it, and find it amusing. They also assigned a score to the assertion depending on how probable it was to be correct and how much they agreed with it.
The evaluations did not alter based on whether a claim was categorised as a concept or a conspiracy theory, except for one of the seven questions. This implies that labelling anything a conspiracy theory has little-to-no impact on its credibility.
The second trial required participants to read a wider range of statements. Participants were graded on how much they agreed with the statement and how much they believed it to be a conspiracy theory. The risk of someone labelling a claim as a conspiracy theory increased in direct proportion to their dislike for the concept. This finding supports the authors’ claim that the term denotes a lack of faith in a proposition.
The latter two studies provided experimental data to back up their claims. Participants were given either plausible or improbable statements to read. People were found to be more likely to classify implausible arguments as conspiracy theories, and those who believe them as conspiracy theorists, according to a study.
The phrase “conspiracy theory” appears to be a product of this event, rather than being the source of scepticism in words. People use the word, according to Douglas, when they do not believe a statement is correct at the moment they are making it.
In terms of future plans, the researchers recommend looking into why people choose to ignore the word “conspiracy theory,” as well as whether the term can sometimes evoke negative connotation and scepticism.
In recent years, the term “conspiracy theory” has gained in popularity. Some people may use these terms on purpose to make another person suspicious. We also have no idea why the word was completely rejected when used by people to describe their own beliefs. There is also a need for greater research with broader and more representative populations, including conspiracy theorists.
Story Source: Original release written by Beth Ellwood at PsyPost. Note: Content may be edited for style and length by Scible News.
Douglas, K. M., van Prooijen, J.-W., & Sutton, R. M. (2021). Is the label ‘conspiracy theory’ a cause or a consequence of disbelief in alternative narratives? British Journal of Psychology, 00, 1– 16. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12548