Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 February 2022
Conspiracy theories (CTs) and CT belief stem from uncertain, hard to explain, crisis situations, especially when strongly held social and political identities are threatened making people feel anxious, insecure, or out of control. Connected to alarming developments in world politics, CTs are no longer manifestations of extremists and paranoids. As salience increases, scholars continue to examine their antecedents and consequences. This chapter highlights the interdisciplinary roots of the study of CTs and CT belief. It sets the stage with important definitions and measurement challenges, then reviews scholarship on psychological, social, political, and situational factors behind CTs and CT belief. Consequences are vast, allowing for only brief discussion of the spread, persistence, and prevalence related to negative health, social, political, and environmental effects. As it is unlikely that broad weaponisation of CTs or their blaze online will cease in the near future, the chapter concludes by discussing directions for future research.