Making Sense of the Nonsensical: A Nuanced Approach to Unwarranted Beliefs and their Holders
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A strong argument can be made that we are living in a post-fact world, where misinformation and unwarranted claims litter the landscape of data readily available to the public—often resulting in tangible consequences (e.g., the mass reemergence of measles in the U.S. related to misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines). Accordingly, the current study aimed to assess the endorsement of epistemically unwarranted beliefs (EUBs)—or those displaying a failure to align with, and be logically nested under, the entirety of available fact-based knowledge (Lobato, Mendoza, Sims, & Chin, 2014)—via a novel statistical method. Specifically, the current study investigated three domains of EUBs (i.e., conspiratorial thinking, paranormal beliefs, and pseudoscience acceptance) via Latent Profile Analysis (LPA)—a statistical technique used to identify hidden groups within continuous data (Oberski, 2016). Further, a number of potential correlates of EUBs identified within the extant literature were entered into the statistical model as a means of identifying their specific associations among observed latent profiles. Results indicated clear differences between identified latent groups. Specifically, two distinct profiles emerged, one higher in conspiratorial, paranormal, and pseudoscientific beliefs, and the other lower. Group membership representing more robust EUB endorsement was significantly and positively associated with New Age spiritual beliefs, alternative spirituality, magical ideation, and extraversion. Additionally, said group membership was significantly and negatively associated with an orientation toward Christian specific beliefs and the personality trait domain of antagonism.