Drawing on research in psychology, information engineering, political science, and sociology, this CREST report examines why people adopt conspiracy theories, how they are communicated, and what their risks are.

This report provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary review of the existing conspiracy theory research – focusing on three specific areas:

  1. The extant literature addressing belief in conspiracy theories, focusing on the psychological, political and social factors that correlate with heightened belief. That is, what factors predict conspiracy belief?
  2. The ways in which conspiracy theories travel across interpersonal relations, through traditional and new media, and on social media. That is; when are conspiracy theories communicated, through what means and in what forms, and what are the motives for these communications?
  3. The risks and rewards associated with conspiracy theories. In other words, what is the relationship between conspiracy theories and prejudice, the rejection of science and medicine, and radicalisation and extremism? How do conspiracy theories contribute to these and other social ills? To buttress this discussion, the report assesses the opposite side of the ledger and denote the benefits gained from conspiracy theories and for the people who believe them.