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


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
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2021


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

Cite this