This article is part of the Research Topic The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 06 August 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00280

Social psychological origins of conspiracy theories: the case of the Jewish conspiracy theory in Malaysia

  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, London, UK
  • 2 Department of Psychology, HELP University College, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Two studies examined correlates of belief in a Jewish conspiracy theory among Malays in Malaysia, a culture in which state-directed conspiracism as a means of dealing with perceived external and internal threats is widespread. In Study 1, 368 participants from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, completed a novel measure of belief in a Jewish conspiracy theory, along with measures of general conspiracist ideation, and anomie. Initial analysis showed that the novel scale factorially reduced to a single dimension. Further analysis showed that belief in the Jewish conspiracy theory was only significantly associated with general conspiracist ideation, but the strength of the association was weak. In Study 2, 314 participants completed the measure of belief in the Jewish conspiracy theory, along with measures of general conspiracist ideation, and ideological attitudes. Results showed that belief in the Jewish conspiracy theory was associated with anti-Israeli attitudes, modern racism directed at the Chinese, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation. General conspiracist ideation did not emerge as a significant predictor once other variables had been accounted for. These results suggest that there may be specific cultural and social psychological forces that drive belief in the Jewish conspiracy theory within the Malaysian context. Specifically, belief in the Jewish conspiracy theory among Malaysian Malays appears to serve ideological needs and as a mask for anti-Chinese sentiment, which may in turn reaffirm their perceived ability to shape socio-political processes.

Keywords: conspiracy theories, anti-semitism, modern racism, monological belief system, Malaysia

Citation: Swami V (2012) Social psychological origins of conspiracy theories: the case of the Jewish conspiracy theory in Malaysia. Front. Psychology 3:280. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00280

Received: 26 May 2012; Paper pending published: 03 July 2012;
Accepted: 20 July 2012; Published online: 06 August 2012.

Edited by:

Christopher Charles French, Goldsmiths University of London, UK

Reviewed by:

Markus Jokela, University of Helsinki, Finland
Michael James Wood, University of Kent, UK

Copyright: © 2012 Swami. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Viren Swami, Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW, UK. e-mail: v.swami@westminster.ac.uk

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