Psychologists have discovered that people who believe in conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to 5G are more likely to feel justified to have a violent response towards the technology, amid a series of attacks on 5G phone masts.
Despite experts stressing there is no link between the latest telecoms technology and the spread of the coronavirus around the world, there have been arson attacks on masts and engineers have been verbally abused since the start of the pandemic.
Fires have been started on 5G masts across Europe, Canada, the US and New Zealand by conspiracy theorists who mistakenly state the technology’s radiation is causing the Covid-19 symptoms, rather than a virus.
Psychologists from Northumbria University in Newcastle spoke to more than 600 people to study why people believing these theories could resort to violence.
Their findings, published in the British Journal of Psychology, found a correlation between those believing in the theories and their level of ‘state anger’ – temporary, short-lasting outbursts of anger.
Disconcertingly, the consequences of conspiracy theories are significant and wide-ranging
In turn, this state anger was associated with a greater justification of violence in response to any supposed link between 5G mobile technology and coronavirus.
All of these associations were strongest for those who reported higher levels of paranoia – defined here as a participant’s belief there was hostile intent towards them personally, as opposed to a conspiracy that powerful organisations were harming society at large.
Senior psychology lecturer Dr Daniel Jolley said: “Disconcertingly, the consequences of conspiracy theories are significant and wide-ranging.
“Our novel findings extend our understanding and provide the first empirical link between 5G Covid-19 conspiracy beliefs and violent reactions, alongside uncovering why (anger) and when (paranoia) conspiracy beliefs may justify the use of violence.”
Co-author and fellow senior lecturer Dr Jenny Paterson said: “These findings are notable because of their possible practical implications.
“As conspiracy beliefs can be resistant to change, our research suggests that targeting the link between anger and violence may be an effective initial approach to mitigate the relationships between conspiracy beliefs, anger and violence.”