The Effect of High-Anxiety Situations on Conspiracy Thinking

Abstract

The aim of the present studies was to examine a possible relationship between anxiety and conspiracy thinking about ethnic and national groups. Two hundred university student volunteers participated in 3 studies. Study One (N = 87; mixed male and female sample) found that state-anxiety and trait-anxiety, measured with the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), were positively correlated with conspiracy thinking about Jewish people, Germans and Arabs. Study Two (N = 46; male sample) and Study Three (N = 67; female sample) were designed to check whether a high-anxiety situation (connected with waiting for an examination) would increase conspiracy thinking. Findings from Studies Two and Three showed that the pre-exam (high-anxiety) situation increased conspiracy thinking about Jewish people. This effect was not mediated by state-anxiety. Hence, further research should focus on searching for possible mediators of the relationship between a pre-exam situation and conspiracy thinking. The obtained results are consistent with previous findings showing that conspiracy thinking about Jewish people is sensitive to situational factors and with findings on links between anxiety and processing information about threat-related stimuli.

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Acknowledgments

University of Warsaw, from BST 1250/11 and from BST 1646/04, funded the research.

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Correspondence to Monika Grzesiak-Feldman.

Appendices

Appendix A

English Translation of Items on the 6-Item Conspiracy Beliefs Scale

  1. 1.

    Members of the given nationality want to subordinate the world’s mass media to themselves.

  2. 2.

    Members of the given nationality want to have a leading say in international financial institutions.

  3. 3.

    Members of the given nationality want to dominate the World.

  4. 4.

    Members of the given nationality often pretend that they are someone else.

  5. 5.

    Members of the given nationality often say things other than what they really think.

  6. 6.

    Members of the given nationality often act undercover or in secret.

The response scale was strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).

Appendix B

English Translation of Items on the 18-Item Conspiracy Beliefs Scale (Kofta and Narkiewicz-Jodko 2001)

  1. 1.

    Members of the given nationality strive for larger influence on the World’s economy.

  2. 2.

    Members of the given nationality often act undercover or in secret.

  3. 3.

    Members of the given nationality often pretend that they are someone else.

  4. 4.

    Members of the given nationality support each other very much.

  5. 5.

    Members of the given nationality want to influence the minds of young people all over the word.

  6. 6.

    Members of the given nationality act as a unit to protect their own business.

  7. 7.

    Members of the given nationality are sensitive to the needs of other people only when they are in groupers.

  8. 8.

    Members of the given nationality want to subordinate other national and religious groups to themselves.

  9. 9.

    Members of the given nationality often say things other than what they really think.

  10. 10.

    Members of the given nationality meet secretly to discuss issues that are important to them.

  11. 11.

    Members of the given nationality are concerned only for their own welfare.

  12. 12.

    Members of the given nationality want to dominate the World.

  13. 13.

    Members of the given nationality want to have a leading say in international financial institutions.

  14. 14.

    Members of the given nationality make and implement secret plans.

  15. 15.

    Members of the given nationality do not care about outgroupers’ well-being.

  16. 16.

    Members of the given nationality want to subordinate the world’s mass media to themselves.

  17. 17.

    Members of the given nationality reach their goals through secret agreements.

  18. 18.

    Members of the given nationality help only their in groupers.

The response scale was strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5).

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Grzesiak-Feldman, M. The Effect of High-Anxiety Situations on Conspiracy Thinking. Curr Psychol 32, 100–118 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-013-9165-6

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Keywords

  • Conspiracy
  • Conspiracy theory
  • Conspiracy thinking
  • State-anxiety
  • Trait-anxiety
  • High anxiety situation