Karen Douglas awarded €2.5m to investigate consequences of conspiracy theories

Professor Karen Douglas from the University’s School of Psychology and member of the Institute of Cyber Security for Society (iCSS), has been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant of 2.5 million Euros for a five-year project examining the consequences of conspiracy theories.

The project will focus on when and how conspiracy theories affect the decisions and wellbeing of individuals and society, and what people can gain and lose from spreading conspiracy theories.

Using a range of research methodologies and drawing on insights across several academic disciplines, the project will provide empirical evidence of the impacts that conspiracy theories have on individuals and important foundations of society such as voting behaviour, faith in government, and vaccination behaviour.

The funding will enable Professor Douglas to recruit and lead a team of postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students to study these issues.

Professor Douglas is a leading researcher on the psychology of conspiracy theories, having worked on this topic for more than 10 years.

She said: ‘I am incredibly grateful to receive this funding from the European Research Council. Conspiracy theories have flourished in recent times and it is now crucial that scientists better understand their impacts. This funding will enable me to conduct research that is essential for addressing one of the world’s most current and persistent concerns. The findings from this project will help inform strategic approaches to discourage people from basing important life decisions on false information.’

The 2020 European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants were awarded to 209 laureates. The total funding is worth €507 million and will help world-leading researchers to conduct pioneering work across all disciplines. The grants are part of the European Union’s Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.