How (Ir)rational Is it to Believe in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories?


  • Petar Lukić
  • Iris Žeželj
  • Biljana Stanković


There is evidence that not only believing in one conspiracy theory (CT) makes a person more probable to believe in others, however unrelated their content is, but that people can even believe in contradictory CTs about a single event. After piloting locally relevant conspiracy theories on a convenient Serbian speaking sample (N = 152), we sought to replicate this finding on a larger sample (N = 252), but introduced several changes. We differentiated necessarily and probably mutually exclusive CTs, and interviewed the participants who answered contradictory to understand the reasoning behind it. The participants were more prone to endorse probably than necessarily exclusive items (we registered positive correlations in former and no correlation or negative correlation in later). Two strategies enabled them to overcome the contradiction: (a) distilling the crucial content and downplaying other information and (b) treating the contradictory scenarios as possible versions of events. Taken together, these results indicate that participants are not as irrational as sometimes portrayed.