According to new research, populism and conspiracy theory are both rooted in a fundamental sense of distrust

According to new research, populism and conspiracy theory are both rooted in a fundamental sense of  ...

A generalized distrust toward others and society is a major contributor to populist behaviors and conspiratorial thoughts, according to new research.

Populism is a political ideology that claims to represent the common people against the elite. Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are beliefs that attribute hidden or hidden forces, such as government agencies or powerful individuals, to significant events or outcomes.

The common psychological roots underlying these worldviews are not well-known. The authors of the present paper were interested in investigating the link between general dispositional distrust and the Dark Factor of Personality.

"I already studied the concept of trust in my Ph.D. dissertation, so it's something that's always interested to me," said study author Isabel Thielmann, who heads the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security, and Law. "At the same time, seeing that populism and beliefs in conspiracy are on the rise in our societies made us think whether there might be some connection between these concepts, given that it's theoretically reasonable."

The researchers used data from three different groups of participants: 397 U.K. residents, 793 Germans, and a second sample of 698 Germans.

The participants completed two measures of populism (the Populist Attitudes Short Scale and the Three-Dimensional Populist Attitudes Scale), as well as two measures of conspiracy mentality (the Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale and the Conspiracy Mentality Scale).

"People like me have no influence on what the government does," says the group, "The government employs patsies to hide its involvement in criminal activities," and "Those at the top do whatever they want." These four beliefs appeared to be at the core of populism and conspiracy theories.

The researchers found a strong connection between the Dark Factor of Personality and the common core of populism and conspiracy mentality. It is defined as the general tendency to maximize one's individual utility — disregarding, accepting, or malevolently provoking disutility for others — as well as beliefs that serve as justifications.

"People who mess with me always regret it," say others, "people who get mistreated usually do something to bring it on themselves," and "Why should I care about other people when no one cares about me?"

Although, several forms of distrustfulness were fully explained the connection between the Dark Factor of Personality and the Common Core (e.g., "Most people would tell a lie if they could gain from it").

"Populism and conspiracy theories have a common dispositional basis," Thielmann said of PsyPost.

Aber as with all research, the study contains several limitations.

"One may conclude that increasing trust in others and the society at large will reduce populism and conspiracy beliefs," Thielmann said.

Isabel Thielmann and Benjamin E. Hilbig contributed to the paper "Generalized Dispositional Distrust as the Common Core of Populism and Conspiracy Mentality."

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