The dark side of social movements: social identity, non-conformity, and the lure of conspiracy theories

Anni Sternisko, Aleksandra Cichocka, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Social change does not always equal social progress—there is a dark side of social movements. We discuss conspiracy theory beliefs – beliefs that a powerful group of people are secretly working towards a malicious goal – as one contributor to destructive social movements. Research has linked conspiracy theory beliefs to anti-democratic attitudes, prejudice and non-normative political behavior. We propose a framework to understand the motivational processes behind conspiracy theories and associated social identities and collective action. We argue that conspiracy theories comprise at least two components – content and qualities—that appeal to people differently based on their motivations. Social identity motives draw people foremost to contents of conspiracy theories while uniqueness motives draw people to qualities of conspiracy theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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