Perceived Power and Conspiracy Theory Belief



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As conspiracy theories become increasingly intertwined with politics, it is important to understand the formation of conspiracy theory belief. Currently in the field of psychology, there is no consensus regarding the factors that lead to conspiracy theory endorsement. As this field of study is relatively new, research has yet to explore the role of perceived power, the power that one feels they have regardless of real-world power. I argue that decreased perceived power is related to an increased endorsement of conspiracy theories. A diverse sample of 347 participants were recruited via MTurk to complete a series of questionnaires. Perceived power was measured through a questionnaire regarding participants’ personal perceived privilege and oppression based on six aspects of identity: gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, economic status, and political affiliation. Participants were also asked to rate their belief in political conspiracy theories. When asked directly to rate their privilege and oppression, decreased privilege ratings or increased oppression ratings led to higher conspiracy theory belief in: cisgender men asked about gender privilege or oppression, White participants asked about race privilege or oppression, heterosexuals asked about sexual orientation privilege or oppression, and Christians asked about religious privilege or oppression. Additionally, Republicans who reported higher political affiliation oppression also reported higher belief in conspiracies. However, cisgender women who reported higher gender privilege reported higher belief in conspiracies. The same is true for atheists with higher perceived religious privilege and Black participants with higher perceived race privilege.



conspiracy belief, conspiracy theories, power, privilege, perceived oppression