According to researchers, men are more likely to seek alternative explanations for events over which they have no control.
A study conducted by the University of Delaware, USA, found that men are more likely to endorse conspiracy theories related to the new coronavirus than women.
The research was published in the July issue of the journal Politics and Gender and was based on an earlier analysis involving Republicans and Democrats, showing that the former is more likely to endorse conspiracy theories than the latter.
The team conducted a survey of 3,000 people using 11 conspiracy theories, including claims that China or the United States accidentally released the virus; that 5G cell towers are causing the virus; that Bill Gates is plotting to inject the population with a vaccine; and that scientists are trying to make Donald Trump look bad by “exaggerating” the seriousness of the pandemic.
Among Democrats, 32.45% of males and 22.27% of females endorsed conspiracy ideas. Among Republicans, 48.9% of males and 38.81% of females. According to the researchers, gender differences in public opinion tend to be much smaller, which made these results surprising.
“During a global pandemic, it’s kind of the perfect storm of uncertainty,” said Joanne Miller, co-author of the research. “And so when we feel a lack of control, uncertainty or powerlessness, we seek out explanations for why the event occurred that’s causing us to feel that way. And what this can do is it can lead us to connect dots that shouldn’t be connected because we’re trying to seek out answers.”
Two factors lead more men to endorse conspiracies than women. One is learned helplessness, that is, the feeling that everything is out of your control and that any actions you try to perform are basically useless. The other is the tendency to have conspiratorial thoughts to explain events and problems.
“It’s something that both men and women can experience, but in our study we’re finding that it’s men who are really feeling this more at this moment, and it’s influencing how they feel about COVID,” explained Erin Cassese, leader of the study. “Learned helplessness and a predisposition toward conspiratorial thinking explain about half of the gender difference that we find. But there’s still more for us to do to try to understand this phenomenon.”