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Suspicions of Injustice: The Sense-Making Function of Belief in Conspiracy Theories

Abstract

In contemporary society, people are frequently faced with threats to the social order (e.g., terrorist attacks). These threats often give rise to belief in conspiracy theories, which assume such events to be injustices that were secretly and deliberately planned by legitimate authorities or institutions. In the present chapter I propose that conspiracy beliefs are functional for basic sense-making desires when faced with events that threaten the social order. Recent findings indicate that contextual and personal factors that are likely to elicit sense-making activities (e.g., lacking control, feelings of uncertainty, high need for structure) increase the association between the perceived morality of institutions and conspiracy beliefs. Furthermore, additional findings reveal that an underlying mechanism why sense-making activities may lead to conspiracy beliefs is that people tend to attribute big causes to big events. To illuminate practical implications I connect these insights to knowledge on procedural justice, and reason that adhering to procedural justice principles may help to decrease conspiracy beliefs.

Keywords

  • Social Order
  • Procedural Justice
  • Bush Administration
  • Conspiracy Theory
  • Conspiracy Belief

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The idea for this improved perspective taking manipulation was in fact raised by one of the participants of the Eichstätt symposium during the discussion following the author’s presentation. I would hereby like to extend my gratitude for this very useful suggestion that inspired the study presented here.

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Correspondence to Jan-Willem van Prooijen .

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van Prooijen, JW. (2011). Suspicions of Injustice: The Sense-Making Function of Belief in Conspiracy Theories. In: Kals, E., Maes, J. (eds) Justice and Conflicts. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-19035-3_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-19035-3_7

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