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Conspiracy theory beliefs and worldviews: a mixed-methods approach exploring the psychology of monologicality, dialogicality and belief development

Hall, Matthew S. (2020) Conspiracy theory beliefs and worldviews: a mixed-methods approach exploring the psychology of monologicality, dialogicality and belief development. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Conspiracy theories (CTs) appear to be an increasingly widespread aspect of everyday thought about social and political events. They call into question common understandings of people and institutions within society, and can have implications for political and policy relevant behaviours (e.g. voting, vaccine uptake). This thesis challenges a central finding in the limited literature covering belief in CTs – the proposition of ‘monologicality’ as proposed by Goertzel (1994), that belief in one CT is accompanied by wholescale endorsement of many others. The thesis takes a mixed-methods approach, triangulating qualitative and quantitative data, to revise our understanding of monologicality. Through qualitative analyses of interview data as presented in Chapters 2, 3 and 4, the central argument put forward is that not all belief in CTs is monological but there are various other ways of endorsing CTs. In Chapter 2, a thematic analysis reveals five types of conspiracist worldviews, proposing a gradient from non-monological worldviews, characterised by intrigue or limited endorsement, to fully monological worldviews premised upon generalised human agency (e.g. government conspiracy) or supernatural agency (e.g. extra-terrestrial cover up, spiritual entities). Chapter 3 advances the concept of ‘dialogicality,’ revealing that CT ideas are endorsed alongside commonplace ideas of science, religion and politics and society. Five dialogical relations are substantiated, including: integrative thinking, synthetic thinking, target dependent thinking, cognitive dissonance and analogical thinking. Chapter 4 provides a narrative insight into the development of CT belief for all five monological types – focussing on the perceived origins of CT belief and later development. Next, we turn to quantitative data gathered via online surveys. Chapter 5 establishes a new scale known as the Conspiracist Worldviews Scale; the first to measure different types of conspiracist worldviews from non-monological to fully 5 monological. Five subscales representing five types of conspiracist worldviews (Type 2, Type 3, Type 4, Type 5-Alien, Type 5-Spiritual) achieve construct, convergent, concurrent and diagnostic validity. The quantitative findings of Chapter 5 validate earlier qualitative findings of Chapters 2-4 and extend previous understandings of monologicality. The thesis concludes, bringing all these empirical findings together and by recognising the importance of looking beyond monologicality if we are to fully understand the phenomena characterising conspiracist belief.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Matthew S. Hall
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Franks, Bradley and Bauer, Martin W.

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