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Are COVID‐19 conspiracies a threat to public health? Psychological characteristics and health protective behaviours of believers

Juanchich, Marie and Sirota, Miroslav and Jolles, Daniel and Whiley, Lilith A (2021) 'Are COVID‐19 conspiracies a threat to public health? Psychological characteristics and health protective behaviours of believers.' European Journal of Social Psychology. ISSN 0046-2772

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Abstract

We tested the link between COVID-19 conspiracy theories and health protective behaviours in three studies: one at the onset of the pandemic in the United Kingdom (UK), a second just before the first national lockdown, and a third during that lockdown (N = 302, 404 and 399). We focused on conspiracy theories that did not deny the existence of COVID-19 and evaluated the extent to which they predicted a range of health protective behaviours, before and after controlling for psychological and sociodemographic characteristics associated with conspiracy theory belief. COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs were positively correlated with beliefs in other unrelated conspiracies and a general conspiracy mind-set, and negatively correlated with trust in government and a tendency towards analytical thinking (vs. intuitive thinking). Unexpectedly, COVID-19 conspiracy believers adhered to basic health guidelines and advanced health protective measures as strictly as non-believers. Conspiracy believers were, however, less willing to install the contact-tracing app, get tested for and vaccinated against COVID-19, and were more likely to share COVID-19 misinformation—all of which might undermine public health initiatives. Study 3 showed conspiracy theory believers were less willing to undertake health protective behaviours that were outside of their personal control, perceiving these as having a negative balance of risks and benefits. We discuss models explaining conspiracy beliefs and health protective behaviours, and suggest practical recommendations for public health initiatives.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: conspiracy theory; COVID-19; fake-news; health protective behaviours; pandemic
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2022 14:49
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2022 14:27
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/31996

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