Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University,
Background. Situations that are characterized by unexpected scenarios, unpredictable developments, and risks to life and health facilitate beliefs in conspiracy theories. These beliefs – together with reliable information, intentional and unintentional misinformation and rumors – determine attitudes toward the situations and ways to overcome them.
Objective. To examine the effect of belief in conspiracy theories on the recognition of the need for quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic; the effect of personality traits on belief in conspiracy theories and on the recognition of the need for quarantine; the relationship of belief in conspiracy theories with assessment of the dangers of COVID-19 and with feelings of hopelessness.
Design. The study was conducted over a period when the number of coronavirus cases was growing, during the first three weeks of the lockdown in Russia. The sample included 667 undergraduate and graduate students aged 16–31 (M = 20.44, SD = 2.38); 74.2% of the participants were women. Respondents filled out two online questionnaires. The first related to perceptions about the COVID-19 pandemic; the second was a brief HEXACO inventory.
Results. Belief in Conspiracy Theories accounts for 13% of variance in Recognition of the Need for Quarantine; together with Dangers of COVID-19 and Hopelessness, conspiracy beliefs account for more than a quarter of the variance. Personality traits defined in the context of the 6-factor personality model have a small effect on conspiracy beliefs about the coronavirus and on perception of the need for quarantine.
Conclusion. Belief in conspiracy theories is associated not only with irrational views of reality, but also with the adoption of ineffective behaviors.
Keywords: COVID-19, conspiracy theories, quarantine, dangers of the coronavirus, hopelessness, HEXACO