New research shows a link between workplace bullying and conspiracy beliefs

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New research has found that people who experience workplace bullying are more prone to conspiracy theories.

New research, led by the University of Nottingham and in collaboration with the University of Paris Nanterre, was based on the idea that the experience of bullying can create conspiracy beliefs because both are associated with similar psychological factors such as feelings of paranoia. The results were published today in Social psychology.

Conspiracy theories are defined as “explanations of important events that involve secret conspiracies by powerful and malicious groups,” from scientists and doctors to the boss at work. This new study builds on previous studies that have shown life experience may increase susceptibility to conspiracy theories and explores the theory that hostile workplace experiences may be associated with the development of conspiracy beliefs.

Dr Daniel Jolley, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Nottingham, led the study and said: “Experience of bullying can significantly affect the victim in a number of ways, with the development of conspiratorial beliefs being another detrimental effect. We believe that victims of bullying may find conspiracy theories attractive because the experience of bullying disrupts the precise psychological factors, such as disempowerment, that are the pathway to the development of conspiracy beliefs.”

Two studies were conducted. The first measured 273 people’s experiences with a range of negative acts and demonstrated that experiences of workplace bullying were positively associated with conspiracy beliefs. The results also showed that people who experience workplace bullying are also more likely to report increased feelings of paranoia, which is also associated with greater endorsement of conspiracy beliefs.

In a second study, 206 participants were asked to imagine being bullied workplace or receive positive support at work. Those who imagined a bullies the environment also reported a rise in belief in conspiracy theories.

Dr Jolley continued: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how conspiracy theories can take hold and spiral, with many circulating and gaining momentum, particularly around vaccinations. Our work shows how conspiracy beliefs can mobilize people in ways that are detrimental to a smoothly run society. This is why understanding how conspiracy beliefs are formed is so important. If we can get to the root of what factors are affecting them, we can develop ways to combat it. We recommend that the next steps be to develop victim support tools to try and prevent the link between bullying and the emergence of conspiracy theories.’

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Additional information:
Bullying and Conspiracy Theories: Experiences of Workplace Bullying and Tendency to Engage in Conspiracy Theories Social psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000492

Citation: New Study Shows Link Between Workplace Bullying and Conspiracy Beliefs (2022, October 26) Retrieved October 26, 2022, from -beliefs.html

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