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Language’s Effect on Cognitive Ability: A Glimpse into the Conspiracy Theories

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DOI: 10.23977/ICEIPI2020029


Zhuohan Chen

Corresponding Author

Zhuohan Chen


With the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic, Chinese people’s belief in conspiracy theories has increased, endangering the whole society. Such conspiracy theories typically possess a common core - they involve the interference of foreign power in manufacturing the epidemic. As such, they echo the rising of nationalism observed during the epidemic. It is therefore of vital importance to gain a thorough understanding of what factors affect one’s belief in this novel type of conspiracy theories. Though psycholinguistic studies have long proved that the use of foreign language could considerably affect individuals’ thinking patterns and cognition, it is still unknown how the use of foreign language could influence one’s belief in conspiracy theories. The research tested two contradicting hypotheses in the current study, thereby incorporating the perspective of language into the investigation. Moreover, based on the Existential Threat Model of conspiracy theories, the current study postulated and examined the main and moderating effects of the degree of seriousness of a situation. By collecting data from a group of Chinese students who were randomly assigned the Chinese or English version of the survey, the research discovered that one’s perceived seriousness was positively associated with the trustworthiness of conspiracy theory, whilst the language had little impact. Surprisingly, one’s self-reported logical reasoning ability went in line with one’s belief in conspiracies. The research also discussed the implications, limitations as well as future directions in the paper.


Bilingualism, conspiracy theories, foreign language effect, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics

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