conspiracy theory

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conspiracy theory

an element within a belief system in which social consequences, identified as harmful or unwanted, are seen as arising from the activities of groups believed able to influence the operation of power, economic decision-making, etc., in surreptitious ways. Members of successful religious or ethnic minority groups, political extremists, freemasons, etc., may be identified in such theories, e.g. the ‘witch hunt’ of members of the Communist Party (and alleged fellow travellers) carried out by Joseph McCarthy in the United States in the early 1950s, or the so-called ‘Doctors’ Plot’ in the USSR prior to Stalin's death in 1953, in which Jewish doctors were accused of plotting to poison Stalin. Whether or not there are elements of truth in the claims made in such conspiracy theories, it is the exaggerated nature of the claims, and the often slender evidence advanced, that leads conspiracy theories to be regarded as a phenomenon requiring explanation rather than being seen as ‘true’ theories. Thus, they might be explained as arising from the believers’ powerlessness and structurally precarious situation, and the need for the believers themselves to find a reason’ for this and some hope of resolution.
References in periodicals archive ?
The conspiracy beliefs outlined above cannot be dismissed as a mere fringe phenomenon.
In light of the above, it is perhaps unsurprising that an openness to stealth Jihad and Birther conspiracy beliefs is now commonplace on the FOX network's various news and talk show programs.
A Scripps Howard poll conducted in 2006 appears fairly typical in terms of its findings concerning the approximate number of Americans who accept either the "let it happen on purpose" or "made it happen on purpose" versions of Truther conspiracy beliefs.
In doing so, this study: 1) examines the influence of HIV conspiracy beliefs on having had an HIV test using a non-marginalized population of African American women; 2) explores the influence of racial-identity salience on being tested for HIV; and 3) introduces and employs a culturally relevant scale to assess self-efficacy in getting tested for HIV.
3) Do perceived barriers, weak attitudes about condom use, high endorsement in HIV conspiracy beliefs, and racial-identity salience decrease Black women's odds of having had an HIV test?
The HIV conspiracy beliefs scale was replicated from a study by Bogart and Thorburn (2005).
HIV conspiracy beliefs were also statistically significant.
For men--with sociodemographic variables, partner characteristics, sexually transmitted disease history, perception of risk, and psychological factors controlled for--stronger conspiracy beliefs were significantly associated with more negative condom attitudes and inconsistent condom usage (Bogart & Thornburn, 2005).
Collectively, the earlier-mentioned studies have begun to document associations between conspiracy beliefs and low condom usage among male African Americans.
The study question was intended to test for the existence of conspiracy beliefs within this cohort and to solicit participants' opinions about why rates of HIV infection might be higher among their peers.
After random phone interviews of 348 people, Goertzel proposed that a person's convictions about secret plots serves as evidence for other conspiracy beliefs.
Thus, media depiction of assassinations, UFO sightings, or human abductions by aliens can prompt or strengthen cover-up and other conspiracy beliefs.