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Psychometric assessment of the Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale

Drinkwater, Kenneth Graham and Dagnall, Neil and Denovan, Andrew and Neave, Nick (2020) Psychometric assessment of the Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale. PLOS ONE, 15 (3). e0230365-e0230365.

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Abstract

The Generic Conspiracist Beliefs Scale (GCBS) is the most widely used measure of general belief in conspiracy theories. The scale comprises five related but distinct factors (Government Malfeasance, Extraterrestrial Cover-up, Malevolent Global Conspiracies, Personal Wellbeing, and Control of Information). Despite this, investigators have typically treated the GCBS as unidimensional by referencing only overall total. Although, the GCBS possesses established psychometric properties, critics question its factorial structure, suggest alternative models, and recommend routine examination of GCBS dimensions as part of analysis. Through two studies, the present paper assessed GCBS factorial structure, internal reliability, convergent validity, and invariance. This involved comparing the original five-factor solution with alternative one, two, and three-factor models. To ensure that the best fitting model was robust, the authors conducted analysis in two independent samples (Study one, N = 794, UK university-based sample; and Study two, N = 418, UK respondents collected via a market research company). Results in both studies indicated superior fit for the correlated five-factor solution. This solution demonstrated invariance across gender, and samples (Study one and two). Furthermore, the total scale and five subfactors evinced good alpha and omega total reliability. Convergent validity testing exhibited associations of an expected strength between conspiracist beliefs, reality testing, and cognitive insight. Large intercorrelations existed among GCBS subfactors, suggesting that the measure reflects a narrow set of interrelated conspiracist assumptions. These findings support the use of overall scale scores as an index of belief in conspiracy theories.

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