What Makes a Belief Seem Implausible to Others? A Q Methodology Study of Conspiracy Beliefs

Prof Doc Thesis


Daniel, L. 2020. What Makes a Belief Seem Implausible to Others? A Q Methodology Study of Conspiracy Beliefs. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.88850
AuthorsDaniel, L.
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Abstract

Mental health professionals regularly make judgements about the plausibility of others’ belief claims and have the socially sanctioned power to label a belief as delusional. However, little is known about how these judgements are made and the little research that exists suggests that they may be susceptible to a range of influences. There is also relatively little research exploring how the general public judge the plausibility of belief claims despite their judgements influencing who accesses professional help. As those who train as mental health professionals come from the general public, as a first step to better understanding professionals’ judgements about belief plausibility, it seemed reasonable that this study explored influences on the general populations’ judgements. In contrast to traditional quantitative approaches which require a priori assumptions about the investigated constructs, a Q-methodology approach was adopted as it is designed to explore numerous available accounts on a particular topic. Conspiratorial beliefs were also chosen as it is likely that a general population sample will have encountered them and they also share certain features of the rarer unusual beliefs encountered in mental health services. The author conducted two Q-sorts; the first was designed to better understand how participants conceptualised conspiracy beliefs, whilst the second involved an exploration of the factors that might influence plausibility judgements. An online Q-methodology programme was used and 57 participants were recruited via opportunity sampling. The data was analysed using PQMethod (Schmolck, 2002). Analysis of Q-sort 1 extracted five different factors, or viewpoints, for conceptualising conspiracy beliefs whilst Q-sort 2 extracted four accounts describing which aspects of a belief or believer made it less credible. The areas of commonality and difference between these factors was discussed with reference to the relevant literature for both conspiracy and delusional beliefs. The study was also critically reviewed and wider implications discussed.

KeywordsConspiracy theory; conspiracy beliefs; delusions; delusional beliefs; judgements; assessment; plausibility; credibility
Year2020
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.88850
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PrintMay 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Oct 2020
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The Social Construction of Conspiracy Beliefs: A Q-Methodology Study of How Ordinary People DefineThem and Judge Their Plausibility
Daniel, L. and Harper, D. 2020. The Social Construction of Conspiracy Beliefs: A Q-Methodology Study of How Ordinary People DefineThem and Judge Their Plausibility. Journal of Constructivist Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720537.2020.1837695