How anger, anxiety, and hope influence the attitudes and behaviours of COVID-19 conspiracy theory believers

Research findings on the roles of various emotive states on COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and compliance with government restrictions, published into the Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology.

Research conducted by Linus Peitz, Dr. Fanny Lalot, Professor Karen Douglas, Professor Robbie Sutton, and Professor Dominic Abrams on the emotive states brought up by COVID-19 conspiracy theories, as well as our compliance with government COVID-19 restrictions, has been published into the Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology. The study focused on emotions of anxiety, anger, and hope: emotions that many have felt during the pandemic, and also drive our actions and attitudes. Using participants from the general population of regions of Scotland, Wales, and Kent.

The key finding of the paper demonstrated that among strong believers of COVID-19 pandemic conspiracy theories, feelings of anger and anxiety produced different levels of compliance and level of caution: anger was related to lower level of caution, and less law-abiding containment (isolation/quarantine) behaviours; while anxiety was associated with higher law-abiding behaviours and increased levels of caution surrounding the virus. 

Another finding was that suspicion towards the official health advice from the current (Conservative) UK government was stronger among politically liberal participants. The results could reflect left-wing British citizens’ defiance towards the current Conservative government and their handling of the pandemic. This finding demonstrates how intergroup processes influence attitudes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers voiced the need for future research to examine the emotional correlations of different conspiracy beliefs, as different emotional states are linked to different behavioural tendencies (e.g. fear-avoidance). 

The full published research article can be found here.

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