Publication Date

Fall 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gregory Feist; Evan Palmer; Christine Ma-Kellams


Why can a person believe something for which there is no evidence and yet also fail to believe something for which there is overwhelming evidence? This study develops a structural model of belief change using the latent constructs of thinking styles and conspiracist belief while accounting for the Dunning-Kruger effect (i.e., overconfidence in one’s knowledge the less one knows about a topic) as a mediator. A combined two-hundred and twenty-six participants from both Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and the introductory psychology SONA subject pool were given two knowledge measures on topics of genetic modification and vaccination before and after reading refutational texts containing current evidence-based information. Belief change was measured as the difference between overall pre- and post- knowledge assessment scores, while The Dunning-Kruger effect was measured by cross-tabulating high-low median split knowledge measure scores with self-reported confidence ratings. A series of questionnaires functioned as measured indicators of the latent Thinking Styles and Conspiracist Belief constructs. Adequate model fit was achieved with the sample data and all paths of the initial structural model were significant. Thinking Styles predicted Conspiracist Belief, which was then predictive of Belief Change via mediation by the Dunning-Kruger effect. Though large path coefficients were not obtained, the significance of this structural model demonstrates important underlying relationships between individual differences and a person’s ability to change incorrect beliefs – something that has become increasingly important in the current era of misinformation and elusive truth.

Included in

Psychology Commons