Conspiracy theories, as often discussed here, plague the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), e.g.:

In fact, I did recently suggest that so-called alternative medicine is a conspiracy theory in disguise. Previous research has found that individuals who struggle with emotion regulation are more prone to believing in conspiracy theories. Emotional granularity – the ability to differentiate between nuanced emotional states – is a key component of effective emotion regulation, yet its relationship with conspiracy beliefs has not been explored thoroughly.

Psychologists from the Uni Graz in Austria conducted an experience-sampling study (165 participants, mean age = 26.3 years) including measures of emotion regulation and differentiation. The study started with an online survey that assessed participants’ sociodemographic (age, sex, and education) and trait measures. Following this, participants were asked to install an in-house developed app on their smartphones to obtain the emotional granularity specificity index. The app displayed two notifications each day for over a week (14 max.). Notifications were randomly displayed between 08:00 am and 10:00 pm with a minimum of at least 5 h between two notifications. Participants, on average, answered 57% of the notifications.

The findings revealed that individuals who endorse conspiracy theories engage in repetitive thinking about the causes and consequences of events and exhibit a reduced ability to distinguish between negative emotions. This effect, however, was observed only in the performance-based measure of emotion differentiation, not in the self-report measures.

The authors conclused that this suggests that enhancing emotional granularity may help individuals in regulating their emotions more effectively, thereby reducing their vulnerability to adopt conspiracy beliefs.

To reduce belief in conspiracy theories, one might, according to the authors, consider a training program to enhance emotion regulation and differentiation. A combination of cognitive control training on emotion regulation, which has been shown to reduce overthinking, as well as reflecting on and diversifying emotional experiences, could provide simple tools for assessing and regulating emotional experiences. This, in turn, may lead to decreased endorsement of conspiracy theories in the long run.

Perhaps we should recommend this to the chaps who recularly comment on this blog bursting with conspiracy theories?

13 Responses to Believing in conspiracy theories: The role of emotional granularity and maladaptive emotion regulation

  • If the authorities allowed a debate instead of censorship, they would easily be able to disprove conspiracy theories to everybody in public, boosting-public-conficdence and destroying the conspiracy theory – but they don’t, why?

    • one can always rely on you for an offensively stupid comment, OB.
      there are not many topics that have been debated more extensively!

      • The only debates I can find are here, to your credit.

        But the large tax-payer-funded and elite-funded bodies don’t allow debate, they only crush individuals who try:

        Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, fired professor Patrick Provost, Ph.D., for publicly questioning the safety and necessity of COVID-19 vaccines for children. Two weeks later, the university received $42 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to set up a center to prepare for future pandemics.
        [end of quote]

        • Correlation does not equal causation. In medicine, in conspiracy theories, and in life.

          • Someone above just got a banana for aping “correlation is not causation” once again. So let’s take that up with parachutes (that have *never* had proper randomised controlled trials):

            And yes! They are right, parachutes do not save lives because at least 157 survived without one, hence “correlation is not causation”. There is no proof that parachutes save lives:
            There are 157 recorded incidents where people fell out of an aircraft without a parachute and survived. However, the actual number is likely to be higher, as many incidents go unrecorded or are not reported.
            [end of quote]

          • While it is true to state “correlation does not equal causation”, what many people don’t know is that:

            correlation is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for causation.

            Although in the broadest sense, “correlation” may indicate any type of association, in statistics it usually refers to the degree to which a pair of variables are linearly related.

            END OF QUOTE

            See also:

          • You don’t have to wear a parachute if you don’t think wearing one correlates to survival, but despite the lack of proof, I’ll go with two parachutes everytime, to hell with the lack of stats!

          • I’m not an anti-parachutist. I’m not parachute hesitant. I am parachute cautious because I’ve looked into the many cases of parachute injury.

            Old Bob wrote: “but despite the lack of proof, I’ll go with two parachutes everytime [sic]”.

            That would double your rate of parachute injury without reducing your rate of death. How much is Big Parachute paying you to promote their products?

          • 🙂

          • Old Bob:

            I’ll go with two parachutes everytime

            Many parachutists do. Reserve parachutes are not a new idea at all.


          • Because parachutes have never been proven in a RCT, then taking two instead of one is equally silly – well it amused me 🙁

          • Readers may enjoy the following articles, published in Christmas editions of the BMJ…

            Hazardous Journeys
            Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials
            BMJ 2003;327:1459
            (Published 18 December 2003)

            Christmas 2018: Look Before You Leap
            Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial
            BMJ 2018;363:k5094
            (Published 13 December 2018)

          • Gems, but that second link has made my day 🙂 – genius! And I stand utterly and completely corrected!

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