Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs in the German-speaking general population: endorsement rates and links to reasoning biases and paranoia.
Kuhn SAK., Lieb R., Freeman D., Andreou C., Zander-Schellenberg T.
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus-related conspiracy theories (CT) have been found to be associated with fewer pandemic containment-focused behaviors. It is therefore important to evaluate associated cognitive factors. We aimed to obtain first endorsement rate estimates of coronavirus-related conspiracy beliefs in a German-speaking general population sample and investigate whether delusion-related reasoning biases and paranoid ideation are associated with such beliefs. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional non-probability online study, quota-sampled for age and gender, with 1684 adults from Germany and German-speaking Switzerland. We assessed general and specific coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, reasoning biases [jumping-to-conclusions bias (JTC), liberal acceptance bias (LA), bias against disconfirmatory evidence (BADE), possibility of being mistaken (PM)], and paranoid ideation, using established experimental paradigms and self-report questionnaires. RESULTS: Around 10% of our sample endorsed coronavirus-related CT beliefs at least strongly, and another 20% to some degree. Overall endorsement was similar to levels observed in a UK-based study (Freeman et al., 2020b). Higher levels of conspiracy belief endorsement were associated with greater JTC, greater LA, greater BADE, higher PM, and greater paranoid ideation. Associations were mostly small to moderate and best described by non-linear relationships. CONCLUSIONS: A noticeable proportion of our sample recruited in Germany and German-speaking Switzerland endorsed coronavirus conspiracy beliefs strongly or to some degree. These beliefs are associated with reasoning biases studied in delusion research. The non-probability sampling approach limits the generalizability of findings. Future longitudinal and experimental studies investigating conspiracy beliefs along the lines of reasoning are encouraged to validate reasoning aberrations as risk factors.