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Review 1: "Both a Bioweapon and a Hoax: The Curious Case of Contradictory Conspiracy Theories About COVID-19"

Published onApr 14, 2022
Review 1: "Both a Bioweapon and a Hoax: The Curious Case of Contradictory Conspiracy Theories About COVID-19"

RR:C19 Evidence Scale rating by reviewer:

  • Strong. The main study claims are very well-justified by the data and analytic methods used. There is little room for doubt that the study produced has very similar results and conclusions as compared with the hypothetical ideal study. The study’s main claims should be considered conclusive and actionable without reservation.



The current paper seeks to validate the role of doublethink in the simultaneous endorsement of mutually exclusive Covid-related conspiracies. As such, it is not so much concerned with Covid-related cognition per se, but uses them as a case in point of endorsing logically incompatible beliefs.

The association between the measures of doublethink and support for contradictory covid-19 conspiracy theories is robust across two sufficiently powered samples.

The results are strong, as not only demonstrated by internal replication, by demonstrating robustness after controlling for other potential confounding variables but also in light of the preregistered hypotheses and analysis plans and the state-of-the-art analytical procedures.

As such, the current manuscript can help advance the understanding of the predictors of the endorsement of mutually exclusive conspiracy theories (or rather: any mutually exclusive beliefs). Having established this, future research might further elucidate the why. The authors examined a few candidates that might be responsible for this doublethink but their inclusion in the regression model did not eliminate the association of doublethink and “covid conspiracy doublethink”. Future research might also expand the geographical scope to other countries or even world regions (the sample descriptions are not sufficiently clear but it seems both studies were conducted on Serbian participants).

The authors are sufficiently modest in refraining from making too strong recommendations or claims based on the data. Clearly, the research question is one of basic research, not applied relevance. The final sentence of the manuscript, however, may be overly bold in suggesting that the current findings “can help with tailoring recommendations for public health policies to combat conspiratorial beliefs and their consequences”. In my reading, this study reports an interesting phenomenon, but does not have strong implications for public health messaging.

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