People who believe in conspiracy theories – like the 21 million Americans who believe the moon landings were faked – are more likely to be narcissists, and a study has unravelled the reasons why.
Narcissists have an inflated sense of themselves and the trait is considered one of the 'dark triad' of personality traits, alongside Machiavellianism and psychopathy.
Alarmingly, narcissism is more common among politicians, and this could mean that politicians, and populists in particular, are vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories, researchers have warned.
The study – conducted by scientists from the University of Kent, University of Cambridge and Polish Academy of Sciences – has found that the paranoia felt by narcissists makes them vulnerable to conspiracy theories, as does their need for dominance and control; for example, by blaming a different group for things that go wrong.
Narcissists are also vulnerable to conspiracy theories due to their need to be unique, and their gullibility, which ties to narcissistic people’s tendency to be naive and less reflective than others, ScienceAlert reported.
The researchers wrote: "Although narcissists are typically overconfident in their abilities, judgements, and intelligence, they tend to be naive and less likely to engage in cognitive reflection."
The scientists said their research has "important implications", particularly when it comes to politics.
"Narcissism also seems to be higher among political leaders (vs. the general population), especially those that are populist or autocratic.
"Therefore, we can expect engagement with conspiracy theories among active politicians, particularly in times that challenge their feelings of power and control (e.g. elections). This is concerning given the harmful societal consequences of conspiracy theories."
Previous research from the University of Kent and Staffordshire found that people who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to commit low-level crime.
Actions which conspiracy fans are more likely to commit include falsely claiming for replacement items, refunds or compensation.
Professor Karen Douglas, of Kent's School of Psychology, said: "People who believe in conspiracy theories – such as the theory that Princess Diana was murdered by the British establishment – are more likely to accept or engage in everyday criminal activity.
"Our research has shown for the first time the role that conspiracy theories can play in determining an individual's attitude to everyday crime.
"It demonstrates that people subscribing to the view that others have conspired might be more inclined toward unethical actions."
Watch: This Day in History - Marilyn Monroe is found dead