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Understanding and fighting the impact of conspiracy mentality - the example of vaccination

WorkgroupSocial Processes
Duration07/2020 – 06/2023
Project description

Social media not only make information more accessible, but also encourage the spread of conspiracy theories. One area where conspiracy theories are attributed negative consequences is vaccination. Today, infection rates of diseases such as measles and mumps are on the rise again in many industrialized countries, which is associated with a decline in vaccinations. This is encouraged by increasing activism against vaccination, often based on conspiracy theories. In this project we investigate the influence of the belief in conspiracy theories in the context of vaccination and how to counteract it.

Frequently mentioned reservations about vaccination consist of its possible negative health consequences and the presumption that these negative effects are concealed by the pharmaceutical industry due to economic interests. Such and similar explanations reflect a so-called conspiracy mentality, which plays a decisive role in the rejection of vaccinations. However, little is known about the exact mechanisms that contribute to anti-vaccination attitudes among conspiracy believers.

In this project, we therefore investigate under which conditions and through which mechanisms conspiracy beliefs affect vaccination intentions. A special focus will be placed on factors that have already been associated with conspiracy theories (e.g. the rejection of societal norms, see project "Conspirational thinking and social influence"). Furthermore, we will pursue the question why conspiracy believers are less receptive to positive communication about vaccination, e.g. through governmental information campaigns. In this context, trust in the source of communication as well as confirmatory processing will be examined more closely.


Prof. Dr. Matthew Hornsey, The University of Queensland, Australien


Winter, K., Pummerer, L., Hornsey, M. J., & Sassenberg, K. (2022). Pro‐vaccination subjective norms moderate the relationship between conspiracy mentality and vaccination intentions. British Journal of Health Psychology, 27(2), 390-405. [Data] Open Access


Dr. Kevin Winter Dr. Kevin Winter
Tel.: +49 7071 979-206