Conspiracy beliefs, bullshit receptivity, and social media behaviors

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Canare, Rosalind H.
Lewis, Rhonda K.

Conspiracy theories have a long history in America, but have managed to garner the attention of mainstream media in the wake of the Trump presidency. Over the course of his tenure, Trump made over 30,500 false or misleading statements amounting to an average of 20 per day for a four-year term (Kessler, 2021). Making statements that may serve your position or bolster one’s image with no regard for their actual truth is what is considered to be bullshit. Given that many such statements were made using social media platforms, the present study sought to investigate the intersection of conspiracy beliefs, bullshit receptivity, and social media behaviors in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of these phenomena and how they may interact. It was found that belief in conspiracy is a statistically significant predictor of bullshit receptivity, and can affect one’s ability to detect misinformation. Higher levels of bullshit receptivity were found to be related to a higher likelihood of spreading false information on social media. A comprehensive intervention for addressing conspiracy and bullshit is described using the Stokols (1996) social ecological model.

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Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology