Positive contact with diverse groups can reduce belief in conspiracy theories about them

Monday, 17 July 2023

New research has shown that having positive contact with people from diverse groups can reduce the development of harmful intergroup conspiracy beliefs.

Experts from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, found that among British participants, positive intergroup contact interfered with the development of conspiracy theories about other groups. The findings have been published today in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

Intergroup conspiracy theories are common and potentially can lead to everything from misinformed voting to extreme expressions of prejudice. Seeking ways to reduce conspiracy theories is of particular importance
Social psychologist Dr Daniel Jolley from the University of Nottingham

Three studies were conducted with over 1,000 people, where the team explored whether positive intergroup contact interferes with the development of conspiracy theories about other social groups.

The first two studies explored relationships, where British participants were asked about their experience of contact with immigrants (Study 1) or Jewish people (Study 2) and their belief in conspiracy theories in relation to them. In the third study, participants were asked to think about a positive contact experience with a Jewish person and then report their conspiracy beliefs held about this group. Participants also reported their feelings (prejudice) towards the target group in each study.

The research demonstrated that those people who had experienced higher quality positive contact with Jewish people or immigrants or imagined a positive contact experience were less likely to believe conspiracy theories about them. Importantly, these effects remained even when accounting for (negative) feelings towards the target group, demonstrating that the effect is not merely another prejudice reduction effect.

Dr Jolley explains: “The research findings offer a promising potential starting point for developing tools to bring diverse groups of people together who may not usually have contact and try to foster positive conversations to help reduce potentially harmful conspiracy theories from taking hold.

“Whilst the problems are often very complex, and positive contact will not solve all the issues surrounding conspiracy theories towards certain groups, the fact that this work offers a potential tool to reduce intergroup conspiracy theories is a notable breakthrough. Our work offers a framework that, along with future research, might lead to the reduction of conspiracy beliefs in the general population”.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Daniel Jolley at

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798