Conspiracy theories and delusions

Lisa Bortolotti, Anna Ichino, Gianmatteo Mameli

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Conspiracy theories are often compared to clinical delusions and correlations have been found between accepting a conspiracy theory and schizotypal traits. In this paper, we explore some of the similarities and differences between conspiracy theories and persecutory delusions. We compare them in relation to surface features, etiology, and downstream effects. In relation to surface features and etiology, we argue that there is some overlap between conspiracy theories and persecutory delusions. In relation to downstream effects, we argue that persecutory delusions are characterized by severe disruption to one’s life, whereas in general conspiracy theories are not psychologically harmful to those who accept them. We conclude by commenting on the problems that might emerge when a comparison between conspiracy theories to delusions is used improperly in political debates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalReti Saperi Linguaggi
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2021


  • Delusions
  • Conspiracy Theories
  • Epistemic Irrationality
  • Social Exclusion
  • Mistrust
  • Cognitive Biases


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