Regulatory Focus and Conspiratorial Perceptions: The Importance of Personal Control

Jennifer A. Whitson*, Joongseo Kim, Cynthia S. Wang, Tanya Menon, Brian D. Webster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • compensatory control
  • conspiratorial beliefs
  • personal control
  • regulatory focus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Regulatory Focus and Conspiratorial Perceptions: The Importance of Personal Control'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this