Regulatory Focus and Conspiratorial Perceptions: The Importance of Personal Control

  • Jennifer A. Whitson (Creator)
  • Joongseo Kim (Contributor)
  • Cynthia Shih-Chia Wang (Creator)
  • Tanya Menon (Creator)
  • Brian D. Webster (Creator)



We examine when and why people subscribe to conspiratorial beliefs, suggesting that promotion focus reduces conspiratorial perceptions by activating a sense of personal control. Study 1 established that individuals primed with promotion focus are less likely to perceive conspiracies than those in a baseline condition. However, individuals primed with prevention focus and those in a baseline condition did not differ in their levels of conspiratorial beliefs. Study 2 demonstrated that soldiers higher in promotion focus were less likely to endorse conspiracy theories because of their heightened sense of control; this relationship did not emerge for soldiers higher in prevention focus. Study 3 found that conspiratorial beliefs increased when individuals primed with promotion focus recalled personal control loss, whereas those primed with prevention focus were unaffected by personal control loss. Using measures and manipulations of regulatory focus and personal control, we establish when and why promotion focus reduces conspiracy theories.
Date made available2018

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