Van Prooijen, J.-W. (2017). Why education predicts decreased belief in conspiracy theories. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31, 50-58.


People with high education are less likely than people with low education to believe in conspiracy theories. It is yet unclear why these effects occur, however, as education predicts a range of cognitive, emotional, and social outcomes. The present research sought to identify mediators of the relationship between education and conspiracy beliefs. Results of Study 1 revealed three independent mediators of this relationship, namely belief in simple solutions for complex problems, feelings of powerlessness, and subjective social class. A nationally representative sample (Study 2) replicated these findings except for subjective social class. Moreover, variations in analytic thinking statistically accounted for the path through belief in simple solutions. I conclude that the relationship between education and conspiracy beliefs cannot be reduced to a single mechanism, but is the result of the complex interplay of multiple psychological factors that are associated with education.