Conspiracy Theorists More Likely To Be Psychopaths, Study Suggests

by : Cameron Frew on : 10 Jun 2021 18:19
Conspiracy Theorists More Likely To Be Psychopaths, Study FindsSeñor Supersol2016/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)/Orion Pictures

Flat Earthers and other conspiracy theorists are more likely to be psychopaths, according to a new study. 

Once upon a time, conspiracy theories were considered cool and interesting. In the early days of the internet, before it gave us everything all of the time, people would fall into YouTube rabbit holes about UFO sightings and JFK’s assassination.


Things are different now. In such hyper-partisan times, inevitably sparked by being able to scream your opinion anywhere, anytime online, mis/disinformation is used for political gain, often by far-right activists – QAnon, for example. Now, it’s been suggested those who buy into and share such theories are more likely to have darker personality traits.

A QAnon supporter. (PA Images)PA Images

A new study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal looked at the correlation between the ‘Dark Tetrad’ – Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy and sadism – and those more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories.

Cameron S. Kay, a researcher from the University of Oregon’s department of psychology, told the MailOnline: ‘Conspiracy theories may, at first glance, appear relatively benign, but they have been linked to serious real-world consequences.’


‘Exposure to and belief in conspiracy theories has been associated with holding anti-Semitic beliefs, being apprehensive of vaccines, being less motivated to vote and being less inclined to stop climate change,’ he continued.

Using 474 students, participants completed scales and questionnaires that assessed their likelihood to believe in conspiracy theories, and in turn, their Dark Tetrad traits. To find the link, five mediators were measured: the tendency to entertain odd beliefs, be fatalistic, desire control, distrust others and feel a need to be unique.

Anti-vaxxers. (PA Images)PA Images

‘To develop interventions to combat these beliefs, it will be crucial to understand, not only the types of people that are drawn to these theories, but also why they are drawn to these theories,’ Kay said.


The study found ‘at least one facet of every Dark Tetrad trait was associated with conspiracist ideation, and nearly every association could be attributed, in part, to the tendency for those with aversive personalities to entertain odd beliefs, be fatalistic, and distrust others.’

‘In contrast to what the previous literature would suggest, it appears that those with aversive personality traits believe in conspiracy theories for mostly the same reasons. Conspiracist ideation may, therefore, arise from some shared feature of these traits rather than a feature that is unique to each trait,’ Kay said.

Earlier research posited a link between conspiracy theorists and low self-esteem, as well as the traits of the Dark Tetrad.

Featured Image Credit: Señor Supersol2016/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)/Orion Pictures


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Life, Conspiracy Theories, Psychology


Personality and Individual Differences and 1 other
  1. Personality and Individual Differences

    Actors of the most fiendish character: Explaining the associations between the Dark Tetrad and conspiracist ideation

  2. MailOnline

    Flat Earthers are more likely to be PSYCHOPATHS: People who believe conspiracy theories tend to have 'dark' personality traits, study finds