Social devaluation of African Americans and race-related conspiracy theories

James Davis, Geoffrey Wetherell, P. J. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


African Americans in the United States endorse conspiracy theories at greater rates than Whites. The extant literature explains this pattern in terms of a rational motivation to blame the social system for prejudice and discrimination. However, little research distinguishes between race-relevant conspiracy theories against African Americans and general conspiracy theories. We propose that African Americans may seek out race-relevant conspiracy theories in particular because they satisfy a search for meaning that is brought about by chronic social devaluation. We present two studies that examine this social devaluation hypothesis. In Study 1 African Americans endorsed race-relevant conspiracy theories, even when controlling for perceptions of discrimination, an aspect of system blame. Study 2 employed an experimental affirmation of social value that significantly reduced African Americans' endorsement of race-relevant conspiracy theories consistent with the social devaluation hypothesis. These data indicate that there may be psychologically adaptive features of race-relevant conspiracy theory endorsement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1010
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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