Exploring the relationship between thinking style and belief in common misconceptions and conspiracy-related claims : presented to the Faculty of the Department of Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology
Misinformation is being widely spread in society around the world. Researchers have investigated how believing in misinformation affects our lives. It is hard to completely avoid, not to mention its costs to people are extensive. There are various forms of false beliefs, such as conspiracy theories, urban myths, fake news, and paranormal beliefs. In this study, we mainly focus on common misconceptions and conspiracy theories. The question that we wonder is: why do people believe in misinformation or make unwarranted claims? Why do people hold these beliefs and continue to hold them when many others do not? Therefore, exploring how their thinking affects people to believe in misconceptions and conspiracy theories is critical. Many reasons and factors are affecting people to believe more than others in false beliefs, such as personality traits and past experiences. Here, we focus on individuals’ thinking style as a factor, and how it differs from people’s beliefs in common misconceptions and conspiracy-related claims. Thinking style affects how we think and make decisions. It also differs in individuals’ beliefs and values. Different thinking styles have their own ways of processing information. Many researchers have studied the relationship between thinking styles and beliefs in misinformation. Most of them suggest that thinking styles is a significant factor which influences how we believe in conspiracy theories. What we will do differently is to use a different measure to examine people’s thinking styles. We aim to explore the relationships between thinking styles and beliefs in common misconceptions and conspiracy-related claims. We would like to understand if both relationships are the same or different to each other to see if these findings can contribute to preventing people from believing in misinformation. The results showed that common misconception beliefs do correlate with conspiracy beliefs, and people who tend to think intuitively are more likely to believe in common misconceptions and conspiracy-related claims compared to people who do not. We found that there are differences and similarities in relationships between thinking styles and beliefs in common misconceptions and beliefs in conspiracy-related claims. Also, we suggest different measures for future studies to further examine the relationships between thinking styles and beliefs in misinformation.