Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, pertinent conspiracy theories have proliferated online, raising the question: How might believing in those conspiracy theories be linked with engagement in disease-preventive behaviours? To answer this, we conducted a repeated cross-sectional survey of around 1500 respondents to examine the link between conspiracy-theory beliefs and disease-preventive behaviours across six time-points in the United States from early February to late March 2020. The findings reveal that believing in risk-acceptance conspiracy theories (RA-CTs; e.g., “COVID-19 is a man-made bioweapon”) was linked to more preventive behaviours. However, believing in risk-rejection conspiracy theories (RR-CTs; e.g., “COVID-19 is like influenza and was purposefully exaggerated”) was associated with fewer preventive behaviours. These differential links were mediated by risk perception and negative emotions and modulated by the stage of the outbreak—RA-CTs predicted higher risk perception in the mild stage, whereas RR-CTs predicted lower risk perception in the severe stage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business, Management and Accounting(all)
- Arts and Humanities(all)
- Social Sciences(all)
- Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)