Narcissism and low self-esteem predict conspiracy beliefs

Individuals who hold strong beliefs in conspiracies often also score high in narcissism and low in self-esteem, according to 2015 research.

The series of studies, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, examined individuals to determine whether self-evaluation plays a role in predicting conspiracy beliefs.

“Previous research linked the endorsement of conspiracy theories to low self-esteem,” said Aleksandra Cichocka, principal investigator and corresponding author of the study.

“We propose that conspiracy theories should rather be appealing to individuals with exaggerated feelings of self-love, such as narcissists, due to their paranoid tendencies,” she continued.

In the first study, 202 participants completed a conspiracy beliefs questionnaire, a self-esteem scale, and an individual narcissism questionnaire.  In the conspiracy beliefs questionnaire, participants rated the extent to which they agree with such statements as “A small, secret group of people is responsible for making all major world decisions, such as going to war” and “The American government permits or perpetrates acts of terrorism on its own soil, disguising its involvement.”

Scientists found that among participants, high individual narcissism and low self-esteem significantly predicted conspiracy beliefs.

In the second study, scientists sought to rule out the possibility that collective narcissism contributed to the results of the previous study.

“Because conspiracy theories often refer to malevolent actions of groups, we wanted to distinguish whether it is a narcissistic image of the self or the group that predicts the endorsement of conspiracy theories,” said Cichocka.

“For example…American collective narcissism predicted the endorsement of conspiracy theories involving foreign governments but not the American government,” she continued.

Study 2 determined that collective narcissism does not interfere with the role that individual narcissism and low self-esteem have on conspiracy beliefs.  In other words, individual narcissists with low self-esteem tend to hold beliefs in conspiracies whether or not they also exhibit collective narcissism.

The third study aimed to account for the role low-self esteem plays in conspiracy beliefs by determining its relationship with negativity toward humans in general.

Scientists found that the factor of low self-esteem can indeed be explained by general negativity.

“The effect of low self-esteem on conspiracy beliefs can be largely attributed to the fact that low self-esteem predicts negative perceptions of humanity more broadly,” Cichocka reported.

Though the studies are not able to establish a causal relationship, they do indicate that narcissism, low self-esteem, and conspiracy belief are significantly correlated.

“Narcissists might be especially prone to believe in conspiracy theories due to their elevated self-consciousness connected with exaggerated feelings of being in the center of others’ attention,” said Cichocka.


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    It is no coincidence that the narcissistic conspiracy monger I once dealt with like to attack and dismiss psychology.

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    Steve Humphries on

    People who always believe that everything is on the up and up level is well; gullible. There are many layers and levels of knowledge and understanding. At the company where I worked it is called, “Need To Know”. There is certain information that pertains to your level of work and your group classification. There was a list of people you are authorized to speak to and all others are restricted. Not only is this a system used for business but it goes all the way through human societies from media, government, to religion, and certainly secret societies.
    Being open minded is a wonderful tool for easy manipulation. Being so open minded that the wind just blows through your ears is only an indicator of what is between your ears. If you don’t have values and beliefs how can you know when they have been violated. Respect and tolerance is the only way a society can co-exist by recognition that we are all different but have common needs and one view is not the only view and will never be.

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    I would like to see the actual studies here. Most crap that passes for a scientific study is anything but scientific, usually with statistically insignificant sample sizes. A conclusion drawn about all of humanity based on 202 questionnaires, probably poorly designed with inherent bias? Yeah, I trust that. Most statistics reported today in news stories would have been laughed out of a college course on scientific reasoning.

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      Or you could have just read the study before mashing your angry rant into the keyboard. All of those factors are well accounted for . But you’d know that if you actually read the paper instead of guessing.

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    One of the things i tell friends who get caught up in conspiracy guff is that we shouldnt attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence. A lot of the problems of the world arent planned for, they are just emergent from an economy that generates economic disparity and suffering as an emergent property of its core rules, and no matter whos in charge the rules will remain the same until those rules are changed. I think it comes down to whether peoples default assumption of others is that others are usually good natured or malevolent. I’d argue that the healthy position is to assume others are well meaning. But not everyone comes from that place, and if your mental framework reads malice in the actions of others, well I guess thats potent grounds for conspiracy theories to grow.

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      The economy is *controlled* and therefore the problems are manufactured, manipulated. “No matter who’s in charge the rules will remain the same until those rules are changed.” Complete dumbass….OK, first off, we have what’s called a CONSTITUTION. In case you don’t know, that IS the LAW OF THE LAND. In case you don’t know, the American People (the Republic) are “SUPPOSED” to KEEP THE GOVERNMENT IN CHECK. What we have today are RULERS that IGNORE or outright DEFY the CONSTITUTION (such as through EXECUTIVE ORDERS and UNCONSTITUTIONAL WARS) and insodoing HAVE ALIGNED THEMSELVES AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA, THE REPUBLIC ITSELF. Are you a queer? I find that it’s much more difficult for faggots to comprehend the truth.

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    Interesting information. As I contemplate the narcissistic component and consider myself, I find this theory not an absolute. I believe most people are good and wish to do go in this world. I do believe in conspiracy theories as there is strength in numbers.

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    Psychologists can measure narcissistic traits and the point at which they are pathological.

    Everyone can be measured for narcissism. It is a trait that exists in a spectrum. You are obviously ignorant of even that most basic fact of how psychological analysis works, yet you consider yourself qualified to question a study on it. Because it potentially insults you. Wow.

    This is ridiculous you are trying to dispute this and paint scientists and psychologists as incompetent.