Public Release: 

Belief in conspiracy theories makes people more likely to engage in low-level crime

University of Kent

People who believe in conspiracy theories - such as the theory that Princess Diana was murdered by the British establishment - are more likely to accept or engage in everyday criminal activity.

That's the main finding from new research by psychologists at the universities of Kent and Staffordshire into the wider impact that conspiracy beliefs can have on behaviour.

Professor Karen Douglas, of Kent's School of Psychology, was one of a team of four researchers to show that belief in conspiracy theories, previously associated with prejudice, political disengagement and environmental inaction, also makes people more inclined to actively engage in antisocial behaviour.

In a first study, the findings indicated that people who believed in conspiracy theories were more accepting of everyday crime, such as trying to claim for replacement items, refunds or compensation from a shop when they were not entitled to do so.

In a second study, exposure to conspiracy theories made people more likely to intend to engage in everyday crime in the future. The researchers found that this tendency was directly linked to an individual's feeling of a lack of social cohesion or shared values, known as 'anomie'.

Professor Douglas said: 'Our research has shown for the first time the role that conspiracy theories can play in determining an individual's attitude to everyday crime. It demonstrates that people subscribing to the view that others have conspired might be more inclined toward unethical actions.'

Dr Dan Jolley, of Staffordshire University, said: 'People believing in conspiracy theories are more likely to be accepting of everyday crime, while exposure to theories increases a feeling of anomie, which in turn predicts increased future everyday crime intentions.'

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The research, entitled Belief in conspiracy theories and intentions to engage in everyday crime (Daniel Jolley and Tanya Schrader, Staffordshire University; Karen Douglas and Ana Leite, University of Kent) is published in the British Journal of Social Psychology. See: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjso.12311

For more information or interview and picture requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 816768

Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Notes to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, it is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

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