The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories


  • The course is pitched at an undergraduate level


  1. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?
  2. What kind of people are most likely to believe in them?
  3. Is it possible to change or reduce conspiracy theory beliefs? If so, how?

This course answers these questions by providing a comprehensive overview of the current, peer-reviewed, scientific research in the psychology of conspiracy theories and those who believe in them.

Perhaps you know or have met someone with intractable beliefs in a conspiracy? Perhaps you have tried and failed to change their views and wish to understand why such beliefs are so intractable and difficult to change? Or perhaps you, yourself, believe in a conspiracy theory and wish to understand the psychology behind that belief? If so, this course is for you!

Topics explored in the course include:

  • Conceptual and epistemological difficulties around the terms ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’
  • Approaches to research and the measurement of conspiracy belief
  • The prevalence of conspiracy theory beliefs
  • The drives and motives behind conspiracy theory belief
  • Personality and socio-political correlates with conspiracy theory belief
  • Explanations for conspiracy theory thinking based on evolutionary psychology
  • Psychological processes underpinning conspiracy theory belief
  • The consequences of conspiracy theory beliefs: both for individuals and society
  • Evidence-based approaches to changing and reducing conspiracy theory belief

The course is pitched at an undergraduate level and should be of interest both to those who study or research psychology (or related disciplines) in a formal academic setting as well as those with a lay interest.

This course aims to be unbiased, objective and fair: acknowledging that whilst conspiracy theory thinking sometimes poses risks to public health and environmental protection, real conspiracies have occurred in the past and that conspiracy theory ideation may be beneficial in some contexts and may have an adaptive function in evolutionary terms.

Each video-learning session includes an array of additional external resources to deepen your learning by referring to a range of academic specialists: by the end of this course you will be an expert in the psychology of conspiracy theories.

Who this course is for:

  • People who know a conspiracy theorist and wish to understand them better
  • Psychology Students
  • Psychology Researchers
  • People hoping to explore their own beliefs in conspiracy theories


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