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Dr Robert Brotherton

Staff details

PositionVisiting Fellow
Department Psychology
Email r.brotherton (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone+44 (0)20 7919 7175
Dr Robert Brotherton

Summary of research

My primary research area concerns the psychology of conspiracy theories. Why are conspiracy theories so widespread? What makes them appealing? Why are some people particularly drawn to them? What are the consequences of conspiracy theories for believers, and for the wider community? More generally, I am interested in anomalistic psychology, which includes belief in the paranormal, superstitions, religiosity, and pseudoscience.

Academic qualifications

BSc MSc PhD

Areas of supervision

I welcome projects focusing on the formation, maintenance, transmission, and consequences of conspiracy theories or other anomalous beliefs, e.g.

  • The role of socio-cognitive biases, such as the intentionality bias, proportionality bias, conjunction fallacy, etc.
  • The influence of personality and individual difference factors, such as self-efficacy, paranoia, and schizotypal traits.
  • Social psychological aspects, such as persuasion and attitude formation.
  • Looking at the links between conspiracy theories and other claims, such as rumours, urban legends, gossip, superstition, and religion.
  • Determining the psychological functions of anomalous beliefs, and the wider consequences for society.

Research Interests

My primary area of research is anomalistic psychology - the study of potential psychological explanations for anomaolous phemomena. The major focus of my research is psychological factors underlying endorsement of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories may be defined as unverified and relatively implausible claims of conspiracy which postulate unusually sinister and competent conspirators and are based on weak forms of evidence and logic.

As conspiracy theories often arise even before the facts of an event are known and are generally regarded by the consensus of legitimate experts as being implausible, it seems that conspiracist beliefs are not always a result of rational evaluation of evidence. Regardless of the objective truth or untruth of any particular conspiracist claim, my research is directed towards exploring the potential role of psychological factors, such as cognitive biases and heuristics, personality and individual differences, and social psychological factors. I am also interested in the transmission and consequences of conspiracy theories.

Publications

Book Section

Conspiracy theories
Brotherton, Robert and French, Christopher C.. 2016. Conspiracy theories. In: David Groome and Ron Roberts, eds. Parapsychology: The Science of Unusual Experience. 2nd ed. London: Psychology Press. ISBN 9781138916418

Article

Intention Seekers: Conspiracist Ideation and Biased Attributions of Intentionality
Brotherton, Robert and French, Christopher C.. 2015. Intention Seekers: Conspiracist Ideation and Biased Attributions of Intentionality. PLoS ONE, 10(5), ISSN 1932-6203

Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Susceptibility to the Conjunction Fallacy
Brotherton, Robert and French, Christopher C.. 2014. Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Susceptibility to the Conjunction Fallacy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(2), pp. 238-248. ISSN 0888-4080

Measuring Belief in Conspiracy Theories: The Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale
Brotherton, Robert; French, Christopher C. and Pickering, Alan. 2013. Measuring Belief in Conspiracy Theories: The Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(279), pp. 1-15.

Thesis

Measurement Issues and the Role of Cognitive Biases in Conspiracist Ideation
Brotherton, Robert A.. 2013. Measurement Issues and the Role of Cognitive Biases in Conspiracist Ideation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London

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