Conspiracy Beliefs of Future Teachers


The present study was focused on examination of conspiracy beliefs in a specific sample of future teachers. The main aims of the study were to explore whether and to what extent endorse future teachers to conspiracy beliefs, and whether cognitive abilities are related to future teachers’ conspiracy beliefs. In two studies 394 future teachers completed Generic Conspiracist Belief Scale, Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire, Vienna Matrix Test, Rational-Experiential Inventory, Cognitive reflection test, Slovak Conspiracy Belief Scale. Future teachers had mid-point agreements with conspiracy theories (most often: government conspiracy beliefs, information control beliefs and unnecessary prescription of antibiotics beliefs). Students with low conspiracy beliefs were significantly higher in rational thinking style than those high in conspiracy beliefs, and students reading and watching legitimate media believed significantly more in conspiracy theories than those reading and watching tabloids. Benefits of critical thinking courses as a way of reducing conspiracy beliefs are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Aarnio, K., Lindeman, M. (2005) Paranormal beliefs, education, and thinking styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(7), 1227–1236.

  2. Astin, J. A. (1998). Why patients use alternative medicine. JAMA, 279(19), 1548–1553. doi:10.1001/jama.279.19.1548.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Ballová Mikušková, E., Hanák, R., & Čavojová, V. (2015). Appropriateness of two inventories measuring intuition (the PID and the REI). Studia Psychologica, 57(1), 81–100.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Baron, J. (1991). Beliefs about thinking. In J. F. Voss, D. N. Perkins, & J. W. Segal (Eds.), Thinking and learning skills, Vol. 2: Research and open questions (pp. 365–390). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bartlett, J., & Miller, C. (2010). The power of unreason. Conspiracy theories, extremism and counter-terrorism. London: Demos.

  6. Brotherton, R., French, C. C., & Pickering, A. D. (2013). Measuring belief in conspiracy theories: the Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(279), 1–15. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00279.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bruder, M., Haffke, P., Neave, N., Nouripanah, N., & Imhoff, R. (2013). Measuring individual differences in generic beliefs in conspiracy theories across cultures: conspiracy mentality questionnaire. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(225), 1–15. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00225.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Clarke, S. (2002). Conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorizing. Philosophy of the Sciences, 131–150. doi: 10.1177/004931032002001.

  9. Čavojová, V., & Hanák, R. (2015). Examining irrational beliefs: The role of cognitive abilities, thinking dispositions and cognitive biases. Unpublished manuscript. Institute of experimental psychology, Slovak Academy of Sciences.

  10. Darwin, H., Neave, N., & Holmes, J. (2011). Belief in conspiracy theories. The role of paranormal belief, paranoid ideation and schizotypy. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(8), 1289–1293. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.02.027.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Eve, R. A., Dunn, D., & Eve, R. A. (1990). Psychic power, astrology and creationism in the classroom ? Evidence of pseudoscientific beliefs among high school biology & life science teachers. The American Biology Teacher, 52(1), 10–21. doi:10.2307/4449018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Frederick, S. (2005). Cognitive reflection and decision making. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(4), 25–42. doi:10.1257/089533005775196732.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Genovese, J. E. C. (2005). Paranormal beliefs, schizotypy, and thinking styles among teachers and future teachers. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(1), 93–102. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.12.008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Imhoff, R., & Bruder, M. (2014). Speaking (Un-) truth to power: conspiracy mentality as a generalised political attitude. European Journal of Personality, 28, 25–43. doi:10.1002/per.1930.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Johnson, R. M., & Pigliucci, M. (2004). Is knowledge of science associated with higher skepticism of pseudoscientific claims ? The American Biology Teacher, 66(8), 536–548. doi:10.1662/0002-7685(2004)066[0536:IKOSAW]2.0.CO;2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Jolley, D., & Douglas, K. M. (2014). The social consequences of conspiracism: exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprint. British Journal of Psychology, 105, 35–56. doi:10.1111/bjop.12018.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Kikas, E. (2004). Teachers’ conceptions and misconceptions concerning three natural phenomena. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(5), 432–448. doi:10.1002/tea.20012.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Klose, J., Černochová, D., & Král, P. (2002). Vídeňský maticový test. Praha: Testcentrum.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Kostovičová, L., Konečný, M., & Dudeková, K. (2013). Čo to vlastne meriame? Reflexia testu kognitívnej reflexie. In 31. Psychologické dni.

  20. Leman, P. J. (2013). Beliefs in conspiracy theories and the need for cognitive closure. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 378. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00378.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. Lindeman, M. (2011). Biases in intuitive reasoning and belief in complementary and alternative medicine. Psychology & Health, 26(3), 371–382. doi:10.1080/08870440903440707.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Pacini, R., & Epstein, S. (1999). The relation of rational and experiential information processing styles to personality, basic beliefs, and the ratio-bias phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(6), 972–987. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.6.972.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Preece, P. F. W., & Baxter, J. H. (2000). Skepticism and gullibility: the superstitious and pseudo-scientific beliefs of secondary school students. International Journal of Science Education, 22(11), 1147–1156. doi:10.1080/09500690050166724.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Rice, T. W. (2003). Believe it or not: religious and other paranormal beliefs in the United States. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42(1), 95–106. doi:10.1111/1468-5906.00163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Sadler-Smith, E. (2011). The intuitive style: relationships with local/global and verbal/visual styles, gender, and superstitious reasoning. Learning and Individual Differences, 21(3), 263–270. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2010.11.013.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Stempel, B. C., Hargrove, T., & Stempel, G. H. (2007). Media use, social structure, and belief in 9/11 conspiracy. W&MC Quarterly, 84(2), 353–372. doi:10.1177/107769900708400210.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Swami, V., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2010). Unanswered questions: a preliminary investigation of personality and individual difference predictors of 9/11 conspiracist beliefs. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(6), 749–761. doi:10.1002/acp.1583.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Swami, V., Coles, R., Stieger, S., Pietschnig, J., Furnham, A., Rehim, S., & Voracek, M. (2011). Conspiracist ideation in Britain and Austria: evidence of a monological belief system and associations between individual psychological differences and real-world and fictitious conspiracy theories. British Journal of Psychology (London, England : 1953), 102(3), 443–463. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2010.02004.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Swami, V., Voracek, M., Stieger, S., Tran, U. S., & Furnham, A. (2014). Analytic thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition, 133(3), 572–585. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.08.006.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Toplak, M. E., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Assessing miserly information processing: an expansion of the Cognitive Reflection Test. Thinking & Reasoning, 20(2), 147–168. doi:10.1080/13546783.2013.844729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Van Prooijen, J.-W., Krouwel, A. P. M., & Pollet, T. V. (2015). Political extremism predicts belief in conspiracy theories. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1–9. doi: 10.1177/1948550614567356.

  32. Walker, R. W., Hoekstra, S. J., & Vogl, R. J. (2002). Science education is no guarantee of skepticism. Skeptic, 9(3), 24–27.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The study was funded by the VEGA Slovak Research Agency and is part of research project 2/0064/13 “Decision making of experts: Use of intuition by experts for solving strategic tasks” awarded to Vladimíra Čavojová. The author would like to thank Vladimíra Čavojová and Róbert Hanák for their productive discussions and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eva Ballová Mikušková.

Ethics declarations


This study was funded by the VEGA Slovak Research Agency and is part of research project 2/0064/13 “Decision making of experts: Use of intuition by experts for solving strategic tasks” awarded to Vladimíra Čavojová.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

Author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(DOCX 20 kb)


(DOCX 21 kb)


(DOCX 21 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ballová Mikušková, E. Conspiracy Beliefs of Future Teachers. Curr Psychol 37, 692–701 (2018).

Download citation


  • Conspiracy beliefs
  • Conspiracy mentality
  • Cognitive ability
  • Thinking style