The Social Construction of Conspiracy Beliefs: A Q-Methodology Study of How Ordinary People DefineThem and Judge Their Plausibility

Article


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
AuthorsDaniel, L. and Harper, D.
Abstract

Little is known about ordinary people’s understandings of conspiracy beliefs and how these understandings relate to the perspectives of researchers and scholars. Working within a social constructionist epistemological framework, we conducted a Q-methodology study aiming to identify a range of lay perspectives on two key topics: the defining features of conspiracy beliefs; and aspects considered important in judging their plausibility. Fifty-six people (32 men and 24 women), recruited via regional UK Facebook groups, sorted their agreement with a set of statements on each of the two topics. A principal component analysis, followed by varimax rotation, was performed on each data set. Five accounts about the defining features of conspiracy beliefs were identified: that they are false, illogical and harmful; that they are forms of political critique; that there are varied types; that they are entertaining but ineffectual; and that they are held by a self-reinforcing minority. Four accounts about their evaluation were identified: conventional realist criteria; the importance of personal judgement; skeptical realism; and the assessment of critical thinking. The findings are discussed in the context of the literature and limitations of the study are considered. Implications for research and educational and policy interventions are outlined.

JournalJournal of Constructivist Psychology
ISSN1072-0537
Year2020
PublisherTaylor & Francis for Constructivist Psychology Network
Accepted author manuscript
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File Access Level
Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/10720537.2020.1837695
Publication dates
Online26 Oct 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted13 Oct 2020
Deposited14 Oct 2020
Copyright holder© 2020 Taylor & Francis
Copyright informationThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Constructivist Psychology on 26/10/2020, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/10720537.2020.1837695.
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