Differentiating paranoia and conspiracy mentality using a network approach

Saskia Denecke, Bjorn Schlier, Jess Kingston, Lyn Ellett, Suzanne So, Brandon Gaudiano, Eric Morris, Tania Lincoln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although mostly considered distinct, conspiracy mentality and paranoia share conceptual similarities (e.g., persecutory content, resistance to disconfrming evidence). Using self-report data from a large and multinational online sample (N= 2510; from the UK, the US, Hong Kong, Germany, and Australia), we examined whether paranoia and conspiracy mentality represent distinct latent constructs in exploratory and confrmatory factor analyses. Utilising network analysis, we then explored common and unique correlates of paranoia and conspiracy mentality while accounting for their shared variance. Across sites, paranoia and conspiracy mentality presented distinct, yet weakly correlated (r= 0.26), constructs. Both were associated with past traumatic experiences, holding negative beliefs about the self and other people, sleep problems, and a tendency to worry. However, paranoia was related to increased negative afect (i.e., anxiety) and decreased social support, whereas the opposite pattern was observed for conspiracy mentality (i.e., decreased anxiety and depression, increased social
support). Paranoia and conspiracy mentality are related but not the same constructs. Their similar and distinct correlates point to common and unique risk factors and underlying mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22732
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023

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