Applied Cognitive Psychology

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The generality of belief in unsubstantiated claims

Summary We tested the hypothesis that people show generality in their endorsement of unsubstantiated claims, employing more types of measures than used in previous studies. We found that measures of generic conspiracist ideation, specific fictitious conspiracy theory, and false conspiracy theory beliefs were all strongly and positively intercorrelated. A multiple regression analysis revealed that the measures of specific false and fictitious conspiracy theories both significantly predicted generic conspiracist ideation. A second broader test of the generality hypothesis showed that these measures of false and fictitious conspiracy belief were positively intercorrelated with measures of psychological misconceptions, pseudoscience, poorly supported psychological practices, and paranormal beliefs. However, the measures of misconceptions and pseudoscience displayed substantially lower correlations. The results provide support for the generality of acceptance of a wider variety of unsubstantiated claims than used in previous studies and also suggest differences in the types endorsed based on the kind of knowledge and content measured.

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