Accounts of conspiracy beliefs within the general population: a grounded theory

Prof Doc Thesis


Gerry, Louise 2012. Accounts of conspiracy beliefs within the general population: a grounded theory. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsGerry, Louise
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Abstract

'If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?' (Rosenhan, 1973, p.250). This question, posed almost 40 years ago, continues to pervade mental health debates and polarise opinion. The current research explores how unusual beliefs are negotiated and constructed by individuals in a non-clinical population. I considered this from the perspective of individuals who endorse conspiracy theories ('belief holders') as well as a friend, family member or partner. Previous research indicates that 'insanity' is often identified and constructed by systems around a person rather than by the person themselves. By taking this approach, I aimed to elucidate the intra- and inter-personal negotiation of claims from two different perspectives. Each belief holder and a self-selected friend, family member or partner were interviewed together to examine the intra- and inter-personal negotiation of claims, how claims were constructed by those around the belief holder and how emotions associated with claims were managed. Grounded theory was used to analyse the data.
Two core-categories were developed from the data; 'discovering and managing a new world' and 'experiencing and negotiating claims with others'. The first core-category focused on the intra-individual experience of claims, exploring how these were discovered, experienced and integrated into participants' sense of themselves and their identities. The second core-category explored the inter-personal negotiation of claims, how claims were constructed by those closest to belief holders and the strategies developed by participants to negotiate claims in diverse social contexts. Both core-categories were complementary, with many processes running in parallel between the two. A model of how participants experienced and negotiated claims was developed, combining the two core-categories and explicating the relationships between the two. The clinical and research implications of the findings are explored.

KeywordsGrounded theory; Conspiracy theories; Mental health debates
Year2012
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.15123/PUB.1877
Publication dates
PrintMay 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Apr 2013
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-ND
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/85z11

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