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UK psychologists find link between 5G conspiracy theories and violence

Jasper Hart
June 23, 2020

Bursts of anger and paranoia linked to justification of violencePsychologists have provided what they claim to be the first scientific evidence of a link between violent behaviour towards telecoms sites and employees and conspiracies about 5G and coronavirus.

The study, carried out by academics at Northumbria University, assessed 601 participants to see how much they thought violence was a valid response to coronavirus conspiracy theories.

It found a strong correlation between a belief in 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories and bursts of anger, especially among those with higher levels of paranoia.

“Disconcertingly, the consequences of conspiracy theories are significant and wide-ranging,” said Northumbria senior lecturer in psychology Daniel Jolley. “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.”

“These findings are notable because of their possible practical implications,” added senior lecturer in psychology Dr Jenny Paterson. “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”, explained Dr Jenny Paterson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

The study found that the results were not exclusive to 5G coronavirus conspiracy concerns, but also applied to conspiracy theories that promote an idea that is directly harmful to the individuals who believe in them.

According to industry body Mobile UK, there have been 94 individual arson attacks on telecoms infrastructure and more than 250 incidences of abuse linked to 5G conspiracy theories as of June 11.

Concerns about attacks on telecoms infrastructure and employees led the four MNOs to issue a joint response condemning the spread of conspiracy theories back in April.

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