Murray State Theses and Dissertations


This study uncovered factors associated with increased conspiracy theory fanaticism by examining the structural components of conspiracy thinking to predict continuous support for specific conspiracy theory propositions. Participants' level of discordant knowledge in conspiracy thinking, comprised of subjective certainty and locus of perceived social opposition, was quantified to predict continuous support for specific conspiracy theory propositions (H1). Findings suggest that underlying differences in the epistemic structure of conspiracy theorizing can be measured to predict the potential negative outcomes of increased conspiracy thinking. Social vigilantism was also examined as a partial mediator to help explain the relationship between discordant knowing conspiracy thinking and fanatic conspiracy theory support (H2). These results did not indicate a significant indirect effect, however subsequent exploratory analyses did reveal independent effects of social vigilantism on both discordant knowing and conspiracy theory fanaticism. Finally, it was expected that an individual’s willingness to adopt discordant knowing levels of conspiracy thinking would be positively associated with trait levels of epistemic curiosity, and a stronger relationship with deprivation-type than interest-type (H3). However, the results did not support this hypothesis, suggesting that higher levels of deprivation-type curiosity do not necessarily correspond to the use of conspiracy theorizing as a motivated epistemic process to mitigate negative emotions associated with uncertainty.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

conspiracy thinking, discordant knowing, fanaticism, social vigilantism, epistemic curiosity

Committee Chair

Sean C. Rife

Committee Member

Jana Hackathorn

Committee Member

Patrick Cushen

Committee Member

Kevin Elliott

Document Type