Belief in conspiracy theories boosts low-level crime: Study
People who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to accept or engage in everyday criminal activity, scientists say.
Belief in conspiracy theories, such as the theory that Princess Diana was murdered by the British establishment, has been previously associated with prejudice, political disengagement and environmental inaction.
Researchers at the University of Kent and the University of Staffordshire in the UK show that such belief also makes people more inclined to actively engage in antisocial behaviour.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, shows 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.
The study also showed that exposure to conspiracy theories made people more likely to intend to engage in everyday crime in the future, according to a statement.
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'.
"Our research has shown for the first time the role that conspiracy theories can play in determining an individual's attitude to everyday crime," said Karen Douglas, of the University of Kent. "It demonstrates that people subscribing to the view that others have conspired might be more inclined toward unethical actions," Douglas 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," said Dan Jolley, of Staffordshire University.