Belief in conspiracy theories stems – in part – from negative early childhood experiences with caregivers, new research has shown.
In two studies, Ricky Green and Professor Karen Douglas, of the University’s School of Psychology, found that participants with what is termed ‘anxious attachment style’were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
An anxious attachment style is formed in childhood when a caregiver is inconsistently available. Once formed, this attachment style perseveres in adulthood, where it colours many aspects of people’s lives such as their friendships and attitudes.
The research found that participants with anxious attachment style not only believed in general notions of conspiracy but also specific established conspiracy theories, such as that Princess Diana was assassinated by the British Secret Service.
Anxious attachment style also explained belief in conspiracy theories whilst taking into account other important factors such as general feelings of mistrust, age, education and religiosity.
The findings add further evidence that attachment not only influences how a person interacts with others, but also that it influences people’s worldviews and political attitudes, say the researchers.
The paper, entitled Anxious attachment and belief in conspiracy theories (Ricky Green and Karen M. Douglas) is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.