A review of the psychosocial and criminological factors underlying COVID-19 conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories and misinformation are becoming increasingly pervasive in recent years and have been spreading at an astounding rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a range of problems, including non-adherence to safety protocols, refusal to be vaccinated and disregard for public safety. The uncontrollable spread of dubious information has been dubbed an infode-mic and is facilitated by social media and the internet. The belief in, and diffusion of conspiracy theories is linked to various factors familiar to the psychological and criminological fields. Key among these factors is a trait known as conspiratorial thinking. In order to combat this pheno-menon, it is essential that we understand how and why conspiracy theories spread and what makes people prone to believing in them. This literature review aims to highlight the principal research into the identifying characteristics of conspiracy theories, as well as the psycho-social and criminological factors that sustain them. It also explores the effects that conspiracy belief can have on people and groups. It then delves into the role of social media in the diffusion of conspiracy theories during the pandemic. Finally, it illustrates the main strategies that have been used to counter misinformation and conspiracy theories and suggests some areas where further research is required.