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The role of perceived minority-group status in the conspiracy beliefs of factual majority groups.

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Gundersen, Aleksander B  ORCID logo
van der Linden, Sander 
Piksa, Michał 
Morzy, Mikołaj 


Research suggests that minority-group members sometimes are more susceptible to misinformation. Two complementary studies examined the influence of perceived minority status on susceptibility to misinformation and conspiracy beliefs. In study 1 (n = 2140), the perception of belonging to a minority group, rather than factually belonging to it, was most consistently related with an increased susceptibility to COVID-19 misinformation across national samples from the USA, the UK, Germany and Poland. Specifically, perceiving that one belongs to a gender minority group particularly predicted susceptibility to misinformation when participants factually did not belong to it. In pre-registered study 2 (n = 1823), an experiment aiming to manipulate the minority perceptions of men failed to influence conspiracy beliefs in the predicted direction. However, pre-registered correlational analyses showed that men who view themselves as a gender minority were more prone to gender conspiracy beliefs and exhibited a heightened conspiracy mentality. This effect was correlationally mediated by increased feelings of system identity threat, collective narcissism, group relative deprivation and actively open-minded thinking. Especially, the perception of being a minority in terms of power and influence (as compared to numerically) was linked to these outcomes. We discuss limitations and practical implications for countering misinformation.


Peer reviewed: True

Publication status: Published


COVID-19, conspiracy beliefs, gender, minority groups, misinformation

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R Soc Open Sci

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The Royal Society
EEA Grants (2019/35/J/HS6/03498)