Re-examining the roots of COVID-19 vaccine skepticism: the role of receptivity to fake news, conspiracy theories, and trust

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Purpose: The aim is to investigate individual antecedents of social identification as a vaccine sceptic and vaccine hesitancy in two cultural contexts: Australia (low Covid-19 infection risk and high vaccine uptake) and Romania, (high infection risk and low vaccine uptake). We examined the factors that are the most likely to predict vaccine scepticism and hesitancy according to recent literature - i.e., receptivity to bullshit, belief in conspiracy theories, trust (in government and science), and political orientation.

Background: The information landscape – e.g., news, novel government guidelines and conspiracy theories, has rapidly changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media has facilitated the consumption and transmission of information regarding Covid-19 worldwide. Since repeated information is more likely to be perceived as true, many individuals struggled to critically evaluate information as true or as fake news. This may has had an impact on their attitudes and behaviours towards issues such as vaccination.

Methods: Online survey, between-subjects design. The sample included 1000 Australian and Romanian participants recruited through Qualtrics.

Results: We found that receptivity to bullshit, conspiracy theories, trust, and political orientation represent antecedents of vaccine scepticism and indirectly vaccine hesitancy, but they play different roles in the relationship between vaccine scepticism and vaccine hesitancy in the two cultural contexts investigated.

Conclusions: Our studies highlight the importance of investigating both cognitive (receptivity to bullshit and belief in conspiracy theories) and social (trust and political orientation) antecedents of vaccine scepticism in different cultural contexts.

Keywords: COVID-19, vaccine scepticism, susceptibility to bullshit, political orientation, conspiracy theories
Period14 Jul 2022
Event title45th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology "Democracy as an Achievement: Recognizing Tensions, Challenges, and Aspirations through Political Psychology"
Event typeConference
LocationAthens, GreeceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • COVID-19
  • vaccine skepticism
  • susceptibility to bullshit
  • political orientation
  • trust in government
  • conspiracy theories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology