The conspiracy hoax? Testing key hypotheses about the correlates of generic beliefs in conspiracy theories during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Martin Bruder, Laura Kunert
Published Online:
05 May 2021
Volume/Issue No:
Early View Articles

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Conspiracy beliefs are ubiquitous in the current COVID‐19 pandemic. This may be because they directly affect own and others' health and economic outcomes due to detrimental effects on preventive behaviour. We aimed to (a) test key hypotheses on the correlates of generic beliefs in conspiracy theories in this high‐threat real‐life setting, (b) examine the role of trust in mediating effects of conspiracy beliefs on preventive behaviour, and (c) thereby inform the public health response. Using cross‐sectional data (N = 1013) from the German COVID‐19 monitoring we tested the relationships between conspiracy beliefs and (a) social and economic worries, (b) trust in media, the government, public health institutions, and science, and (c) hygiene‐related and contact‐related preventive behaviour. Results were in line with expectations apart from null findings for the relationships with social worries and hygiene‐related preventive behaviour. Trust in government mediated effects of conspiracy beliefs on contact‐related preventive behaviour.

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