Just a Flu? Self-perceived infection mediates the link between conspiracy beliefs and Covid-19 health beliefs and behaviors

J.W. Van Prooijen*, T.W. Etienne, Y. Kutiyski, A.P.M. Krouwel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


The Covid-19 pandemic has inspired many conspiracy theories, which are associated with detrimental health beliefs and behaviors (e.g. reduced physical distancing; decreased vaccination intentions). We propose a previously unrecognized mediator of these relationships: A self-perceived likelihood to already have experienced a Covid-19 infection. Results from a large sample (N = 9033) revealed that self-perceived infections mediated the link between conspiracy beliefs and health beliefs and behaviors. These findings emerged independently of institutional distrust, and actual infections as indicated by a positive medical test. These findings suggest that conspiracy beliefs shape people's interpretation of the physical signals of their own body.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13591053211051816
Pages (from-to)1421-1431
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Covid-19
  • conspiracy theories
  • health beliefs and behaviors
  • infection
  • institutional trust

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