Feelings of despair brought on by social exclusion can cause people to seek meaning in miraculous stories, which may not necessarily be true.
Such conspiratorial thinking leads to a dangerous cycle, said lead co-author Alin Coman, Assistant Professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, US.
When those with conspiratorial ideas share their beliefs, it can drive away family and friends, triggering even more exclusion. This may lead them to join conspiracy theory communities where they feel welcome, which in turn will further entrench their beliefs.
"Attempting to disrupt this cycle might be the best bet for someone interested in counteracting conspiracy theories at a societal level," Coman said.
"Otherwise, communities could become more prone to propagating inaccurate and conspiratorial beliefs," Coman said.
The findings published in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology were based on a two-part analysis which included two random samples of people.
After analysing the data, the researchers found that social exclusion does lead to superstitious beliefs which are likely the result of one searching for meaning in everyday experiences.
"Those who are excluded may begin to wonder why they're excluded in the first place, causing them to seek meaning in their lives. This may then lead them to endorse certain conspiracy beliefs," Coman said.
"When you're included, it doesn't necessarily trigger the same response," Coman said.
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