Echo Chambers, Cognitive Thinking Styles, and Mistrust? Examining the Roles Information Sources and Information Processing Play in Conspiracist Ideation

Brian McKernan, Patrícia Rossini, Jennifer Stromer-Galley


Researchers have proposed that conspiracy theory beliefs are fueled by isolation from counter-conspiracy theory information, reliance on intuitive thinking, and/or institutional mistrust. Prior work has not thoroughly explored these factors in the same study, making it difficult to ascertain the extent to which each factor influences conspiracist ideation and thus the necessary components for developing effective interventions. We conducted a survey (N = 1,374) to explore the relationship between each factor and conspiracist ideation. Based on OLS regressions, our findings counter the common portrayal of conspiracy theorists as residing in an isolated information space. We found that conspiracy theorists are more likely to rely on intuitive thinking styles and possess lower levels of institutional trust than nonbelievers. We conclude that efforts to reduce conspiracy theory beliefs through exposure to counter-conspiracy theory information may not suffice. Interventions must also encourage analytical thinking and strengthen institutional trust.


conspiracy theories; selective exposure; cognitive thinking styles; information processing; echo chambers; institutional trust

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