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What Psychological Factors Determine to What Extent Young Adults Believe in Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories?

Peters, Louisa (2021) What Psychological Factors Determine to What Extent Young Adults Believe in Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories?

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Abstract:During the covid-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories concerning the virus gained popularity within the public. Since covid-19 conspiracy theory believers less frequently engage in preventive measures and health-promoting behaviors, reducing the prevalence of these beliefs may assist in decreasing the transmission of the virus. This research aims to assess what psychological factors determine to what extent young adults believe in covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs. Based on the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM) Adjusted to Covid-19, it is hypothesized that uncertainty, risk perception, fear, and efficacy play a role in determining covid-19 conspiracy theory believing. It is measured whether ‘uncertainty about covid-19’ and ‘risk perception of covid-19’ directly and positively relate to ‘covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs’, or whether these relationships are mediated by ‘fear of covid-19’. Moreover, it is tested whether efficacy moderates the relationship between ‘uncertainty about covid-19’/’risk perception of covid-19’ and ‘fear of covid-19’. A correlational survey design was implemented with 172 valid responses. Correlation analyses indicate a direct positive relationship between ‘uncertainty about covid-19’ and ‘covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs’ as well as a direct negative relationship between ‘risk perception of covid-19’ and ‘covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs’. Mediation analyses found no evidence for ‘fear of covid-19’ to mediate these relationships. ‘Self-efficacy towards covid-19’ and ‘response efficacy towards covid-19’ did not moderate the relationships between ‘uncertainty about covid-19’/‘covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs’ and ‘fear of covid-19’. Respondents who felt more uncertain about the virus were more likely to adopt covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs. Contrary, respondents who perceived covid-19 to be a high risk were less likely to adopt these beliefs. It must be considered that these correlations do not prove causality. It is therefore probable that covid-19 conspiracy theories may act as a coping mechanism that reduce perceived risk of the virus. Contradicting the EPPM Applied to Covid-19, fear was not found to mediate these relationships. Efficacy did not moderate the relationship between uncertainty about covid-19/risk perception of covid-19 and fear of covid-19. This study advises interventions to aim for reducing individuals’ perceived uncertainty and increasing perceived efficacy towards covid-19, as these may be key aspects in preventing covid-19 conspiracy theory believing.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
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