Intention Seekers: Conspiracist Ideation and Biased Attributions of Intentionality

Brotherton, Robert and French, Christopher C.. 2015. Intention Seekers: Conspiracist Ideation and Biased Attributions of Intentionality. PLoS ONE, 10(5), e0124125. ISSN 1932-6203 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Conspiracist beliefs are widespread and potentially hazardous. A growing body of research suggests that cognitive biases may play a role in endorsement of conspiracy theories. The current research examines the novel hypothesis that individuals who are biased towards inferring intentional explanations for ambiguous actions are more likely to endorse conspiracy theories, which portray events as the exclusive product of intentional agency. Study 1 replicated a previously observed relationship between conspiracist ideation and individual differences in anthropomorphisation. Studies 2 and 3 report a relationship between conspiracism and inferences of intentionality for imagined ambiguous events. Additionally, Study 3 again found conspiracist ideation to be predicted by individual differences in anthropomorphism. Contrary to expectations, however, the relationship was not mediated by the intentionality bias. The findings are discussed in terms of a domain-general intentionality bias making conspiracy theories appear particularly plausible. Alternative explanations are suggested for the association between conspiracism and anthropomorphism.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Conspiracy beliefs, Intentionality, Anthropomorphism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU)


13 May 2015Published
26 February 2015Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 May 2015 21:06

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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