National Narcissism predicts the Belief in and the Dissemination of Conspiracy Theories During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence From 56 Countries

Anni Sternisko, Aleksandra Cichocka, Aleksandra Cislak, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Conspiracy theories related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have propagated around the globe, leading the World Health Organization to declare the spread of misinformation an “Infodemic.” We tested the hypothesis that national narcissism—a belief in the greatness of one’s nation that requires external recognition—is associated with the spread of conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic. In two large-scale national surveys (NTotal = 950) conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom, and secondary analysis of data from 56 countries (N = 50,757), we found a robust, positive relationship between national narcissism and proneness to believe and disseminate conspiracy theories related to COVID-19. Furthermore, belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories was related to less engagement in health behaviors and less support for public-health policies to combat COVID-19. Our findings illustrate the importance of social identity factors in the spread of conspiracy theories and provide insights into the psychological processes underlying the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • collective narcissism
  • conspiracy theories
  • public health
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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