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Men more likely to endorse Covid-related conspiracy theories, finds study by US scholars

The study titled ‘Gender Differences in Covid-19 Conspiracy Theory Beliefs’ says this gender gap can be explained by 'learned helplessness and conspiratorial thinking'.

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New Delhi: A study has found that men are more likely to endorse conspiracy theories on Covid-19 than women. Titled ‘Gender Differences in Covid-19 Conspiracy Theory Beliefs’, the paper maintains that this gender gap can be explained by “two dispositional factors — learned helplessness and conspiratorial thinking”.

Authored by Erin C. Cassese, associate professor at the University of Delaware; Christina E. Farhart, assistant professor at the Carleton College and Joanne M. Miller, associate professor at University of Delaware, the paper was published by the Cambridge University Press on 9 July.

For their study, the researchers had surveyed 3,019 Americans between 24 April and 28 April. The survey measured perceptions of respondents on 11 Covid-related conspiracy theories. These responses were then coded from 1 to 4 in the order — definitely not true, probably not true, probably true and definitely true.

The researchers found that women were “significantly less likely” to endorse the 11 theories in comparison to men.

“The average gender gap across CTs (conspiracy theories) is 10.18 percentage points. On an average, men endorse 4.43 and women endorse 3.31 Covid-10 CTs — this difference is statistically significant at the p<0.001 level,” states the study.

It also says that higher numbers indicate greater belief in Covid-19-related conspiracy theories.

Also read: Coronavirus infection transmitted from mother to foetus in France

Men score high in learned helplessness and conspiratorial thinking

Preliminary analysis of the study has proposed that the gap between women and men in believing conspiracy theories doesn’t stem from gender differences in partisanship. The authors used three factors to explain this gender gap — namely personal uncertainty, learned helplessness and conspiratorial thinking.

The study finally asserts that learned helplessness and conspiratorial thinking are two “psychological dispositions” in which men score higher.

However, the researchers also warn of one limitation: “Although drawing strong causal conclusions about the mediational process at work is beyond the scope of our data, these results are consistent with the notion that gender has an influence on Covid-19 conspiracy theory beliefs that work through dispositional factors”.

This study helps further understand how different genders respond to Covid-19 pandemic. The analysis points at ‘attitudinal factors’ that dictate these ‘self-protective behaviours’.

Also read: 22 states match WHO standard of 140 Covid tests/day per million, Gujarat & Bengal lag behind


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