Is the coronavirus created by the government to control us? Critical thinking and conspiracy beliefs among Norwegian youth in upper secondary schools
Keywords: Conspiracy theories, Conspiracy beliefs, Critical thinking, Social studies didactics, Youth
- Research on belief in conspiracy theories among youth is an unexplored field in the Nordic context.
- Research also indicates a negative correlation between critical thinking skills and conspiracy beliefs.
- The results show that more than 50% of the pupils report having learned ‘much’ or ‘very much’ about critical thinking, but very little about conspiracy theories.
- The results show that the pupils believe in conspiracy theories only to a minor extent, but there are significant differences in the degree of conspiracy beliefs.
The aim of this article is to contribute new knowledge about critical thinking in social studies and conspiracy beliefs in Norwegian schools. We explore Norwegian high school pupils’ self-reported learning about critical thinking in social studies and their attitudes toward conspiracy theories.
Design/methodology/approach: The survey focuses on what the pupils have learned about critical thinking and conspiracy theories in social studies.
Findings: The results show that the pupils believe in conspiracy theories only to a minor extent. We found no significant association between how much they think they have learned about critical thinking, and conspiracy beliefs. However, there are significant differences in the degree of conspiracy beliefs and several of the background variables.
Research limitations/implications: The findings are discussed in terms of the increasing focus on critical thinking as part of the social science subjects in school. We suggest that conspiracy theories should be taught both with an empathic strategy and with a clear focus on critical thinking skills, rather than through a confrontational approach.
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