Conspiracy theories are a constant feature of human society but have recently risen in prominence with the flurry of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and their public display in social media. Conspiracy theories should be studied not only because of their potential harm but also because they are related to other sources of misinformation such as folk theories, rumors, and fake news. Recent understanding of their spread has shifted the focus from investigating the believers to characteristics of the social processes that motivate and persuade, with a new view of the conspiracy theorist as a bricoleur dealing with threats through social (re)construction of reality. These tendencies are strengthened by the markets for attention and approval constructed by social media platforms, and bots also amplify them. We identify an agenda of multiple important and urgent paths for future research that will help understanding of conspiracy theories in society.

Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 50 is July 2024. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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