Conspiracy beliefs have become a major issue and obstacle to progress. While holding conspiracy beliefs has been associated with several detrimental social, personal, and health consequences, little research has been dedicated to systematically reviewing the methods that could reduce conspiracy beliefs.
A team of researchers conducted a systematic review to identify and assess interventions that have sought to counter conspiracy beliefs. They included 25 studies (total N = 7179) and discovered that, while the majority of interventions were ineffective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs, several interventions were particularly effective. Interventions that fostered an analytical mindset or taught critical thinking skills were found to be the most effective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs.
Approximately half of the examined interventions consisted of priming-based tasks. The majority of these interventions demonstrated a significant change in conspiracy beliefs. The effects were all either small or very small. Participants who were primed to be less susceptible to persuasion tactics showed significantly lower conspiracy beliefs when compared to controls among three experimental comparisons. These effects were shown to range from small to medium.
Interventions that primed participants to engage in analytical thinking resulted in primed participants having lower conspiracy beliefs than controls. However, the effects of these differences were small. Other priming interventions focused on manipulating participants’ sense of control. They had mixed results, either increasing or decreasing conspiracy beliefs with very small effects.
About a sixth of all interventions used inoculation methods. All successfully reduced conspiracy beliefs, relative to controls, all with either medium or large effects. Inoculations that identified the factual inaccuracies of conspiracy beliefs were found to be the most effective of all the interventions in the review. Inoculations that demonstrated the logical fallacies of conspiracy beliefs were found to be the second most effective intervention.
The authors concluded that their review found that overall, the majority of current conspiracy interventions are ineffective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs. Despite this, we have identified several promising interventions that may be fruitful to pursue in future studies. We propose that a focus on inoculation-based and critical thinking interventions will bear more promising results for future research, though further efforts are needed to reduce participant burden and more easily implement these interventions in the real world.
The identification of the factual inaccuracies of conspiracy beliefs plus the stimulation of critical thinking are two aims I actively pursue with this blog. Thus, one might hope that I do make a small contribution to the reduction of conspiracy beliefs.
Yes, one might hope – but judging from many comments posted in the discussion sections, one could easily get a different impression.