Experimental manipulation of uncanny feeling does not increase adherence to conspiracy theories

Florent Varet*, Jaïs Adam-Troian, Eric Bonetto, Alexis Akinyemi, Anthony Lantian, Dimitri Voisin, Sylvain Delouvée

*Corresponding author for this work

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Research over the past decade has shown that endorsement of conspiracy theories (CTs) is shaped by motivated cognition processes. Accordingly, CTs are theorized to stem from compensatory processes, as individuals attempt to cope with existential threats (i.e., uncertainty, loss of control). Based on the meaning maintenance model, we investigated whether this compensatory effect could follow from epistemic threats in domains unrelated to CTs in the form of uncanniness. Feelings of uncanniness were experimentally manipulated through exposure to absurdist art and literature in a set of five studies, followed by a mini meta-analysis (Ntotal = 1,041). We conducted a final, preregistered sixth study (N = 266) manipulating uncanniness through autobiographical recall. No robust evidence for a compensatory effect was found. We discussed methodological and conceptual limitations of the meaning maintenance model, as well as boundary conditions under which conspiracy theories could have a compensatory function to deal with threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-156
Number of pages13
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date5 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • absurdist art
  • compensation
  • Conspiracy theories
  • meaning maintenance model
  • threat
  • uncanny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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