Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-3-2023

Faculty Advisor(s)

Ann Gordon


The United States may be the most powerful nation on Earth, yet its people still have endured both hardships and tragedies. Events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the AIDS crisis, and the bombings of Pearl Harbor are all tragic events that have influenced American cultural fears. But the trauma and painful memories of tragic events have led some Americans to question any form of authority, even without evidence. In this paper, I examine the extent to which distrust in authority, fear, and overall pessimism lead to conspiratorial thinking. Using original data from the Chapman Survey of American Fears, a nationally representative sample of adults, I find a relationship between conspiratorial thinking and feelings of hostility, powerlessness, and being unfairly disadvantaged. I expect to find that people with lower levels of education are more likely to believe in conspiratorial thinking. Although there will always be people spreading disinformation, conspiratorial thinking threatens the stability of the American political system, and this research illuminates the conditions under which it thrives.


Presented at the Spring 2023 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.