Credit: GG Photographer Ioanna Chrysanthakopoulou (@joan_chriss)

New study reveals belief in conspiracy theories could peak at age 14

By Jasmine Urquhart

This study has shed new light on the belief in conspiracies in young persons for the first time.

New research involving the University of Glasgow has found that adolescent belief in conspiracy theories is heightened at the age of 14. The study, which involved UofG’s Dr Yvonne Skipper, was published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology on 8 February. 

The researchers developed a questionnaire that asked participants to respond to statements such as “some political groups have secret plans which are not good for society” and “secret societies control politicians and other leaders”.

Dr Daniel Jolley of Northumbria University was the head of the project. He said: “Our project has put the spotlight on young people’s conspiracy beliefs for the first time.

“We uncovered initial evidence that paranoia and mistrust are associated with conspiracy beliefs in young populations. We also found that, by the age of 14, conspiracy beliefs appeared to remain constant.”

According to YouGov research in 2019, around 60% of British adults believe in at least one conspiracy theory; however, there has been limited research into adolescent belief in conspiracy theories until now.

The study suggested possible reasons for increased belief in conspiracy theories amongst adolescents could include social media use and psychological stressors. 

On this, Jolley stated: “Exploring the psychological antecedents and consequences of conspiracy thinking in younger populations is important and timely.”

Vanessa Cuthill, director of research at the British Academy, said: “High-quality, independent research in the humanities and social sciences points us towards new ways to think about our most pressing concerns”.


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