New KLI-member Qi Zhao – Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

In his PhD research new KLI-member Qi Zhao (VU) wants to investigate the impact of economic inequality on conspiracy theory beliefs. He also intends to explore the underlying mechanisms and boundary conditions of this relationship.

Although conspiracy theories may sometimes help people be alert to governments or authorities, and hence promote the restraint of power, most evidence suggests profound negative effects of conspiracy theory beliefs, such as increased feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty, reduced trust, deteriorated intergroup relations, and even violence. Therefore, it is necessary to know why people believe in conspiracy theories.

Previous researches have explored various variables which could influence people’s attitudes toward conspiracy theories. However, the impact of economic inequality on conspiracy beliefs has been barely studied. In today’s world, economic inequality is common and growing. Given the prevalence and importance of economic inequality, it is necessary to investigate the influence of the economic inequality on conspiracy theory beliefs.

Qi Zhao’s supervisors are KLI-member Jan-Willem van Prooijen and G. Spadaro.