Multinational data show that conspiracy beliefs are associated with the perception (and reality) of poor national economic performance

Matthew J. HORNSEY*, Samuel PEARSON, Jemima KANG, Kai SASSENBERG, Jolanda JETTEN, Paul A.M. VAN LANGE, Luica G. MEDINA, Catherine E. AMIOT, Liisi AUSMEES, Peter BAGUMA, Oumar BARRY, Maja BECKER, Michał BILEWICZ, Thomas CASTELAIN, Giulio COSTANTINI, Girts DIMDINS, Agustín ESPINOSA, Gillian FINCHILESCU, Malte FRIESE, Roberto GONZÁLEZNobuhiko GOTO, Ángel GÓMEZ, Peter HALAMA, Ruby ILLUSTRISIMO, Gabriela M. JIGA-BOY, Johannes KARL, Peter KUPPENS, Steve LOUGHNAN, Marijana MARKOVIKJ, Khairul A. MASTOR, Neil MCLATCHIE, Lindsay M. NOVAK, Blessing N. ONYEKACHI, Müjde PEKER, Muhammad RIZWAN, Mark SCHALLER, Eunkook M. SUH, Sanaz TALAIFAR, Eddie M.W. TONG, Ana TORRES, Rhiannon N. TURNER, Christin-Melanie VAUCLAIR, Alexander VINOGRADOV, Zhechen WANG, Wai Lan Victoria YEUNG, Brock BASTIAN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


While a great deal is known about the individual difference factors associated with conspiracy beliefs, much less is known about the country-level factors that shape people's willingness to believe conspiracy theories. In the current article we discuss the possibility that willingness to believe conspiracy theories might be shaped by the perception (and reality) of poor economic performance at the national level. To test this notion, we surveyed 6723 participants from 36 countries. In line with predictions, propensity to believe conspiracy theories was negatively associated with perceptions of current and future national economic vitality. Furthermore, countries with higher GDP per capita tended to have lower belief in conspiracy theories. The data suggest that conspiracy beliefs are not just caused by intrapsychic factors but are also shaped by difficult economic circumstances for which distrust might have a rational basis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Production of the manuscript was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant awarded to the first author (DP210102292). We thank Hilary Grimmer for her assistance in some of the secondary data analyses. Data gathering in Latvia was supported by a grant from the Latvian Council of Science, project No. lzp‐2018/1‐0402. Data gathering in Slovakia was supported by the Slovak Research and Development Agency as part of the research project APVV‐20‐0335. Data gathering for the Philippines was supported with funding from the UPD Social and Political Psychology Research Laboratory. Data gathering in Chile was supported by the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (ANID/FONDAL 15130009) and Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (ANID/FONDAP #15110006). Data gathering in Poland was supported by the Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, from the funds awarded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in the form of a subsidy for the maintenance and development of research potential in 2020 (501‐D125‐01‐1250000).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. European Journal of Social Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • GDP
  • conspiracies
  • conspiracy beliefs
  • economic vitality
  • political trust


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