COVID-19-related conspiracy theories in China: The role of secure versus defensive in-group positivity and responsibility attributions

Xue Wang, Shi Jiang Zuo, Hoi Wing Chan, Connie Pui Yee Chiu, Ying Yi Hong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many COVID-19 conspiracy theories implicate China and its agents, whether implicitly or explicitly, as conspirators with potentially malicious intent behind the current pandemic. We set out to explore whether Chinese people believe in pandemic-related conspiracy theories, and if so, how do their secure (in-group identification) and defensive (collective narcissism) in-group positivity predict their conspiracy beliefs. We hypothesized that national identification would negatively predict the tendency to attribute responsibility to an in-group, thus predicting less risk-rejection conspiracy theory beliefs (e.g., COVID-19 is a hoax). In contrast, national collective narcissism would positively predict the tendency to attribute responsibility for the pandemic to an out-group, which in turn would validate conspiracy theories that acknowledge the risk of the pandemic (e.g., COVID-19 is a bioweapon). To test these predictions, we collected data in China (n = 1,200) in April 2020. Supporting our predictions, national identification was negatively associated with risk-rejection conspiracy beliefs via in-group attribution, whereas national collective narcissism was positively associated with risk-acceptance conspiracy beliefs via out-group attribution.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pacific Rim Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • attribution
  • China
  • conspiracy theory
  • COVID-19
  • in-group
  • national collective narcissism
  • national identification
  • out-group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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