The Conspiratorial Style in Lay Economic Thinking

29 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2016 Last revised: 21 Jan 2017

See all articles by David Leiser

David Leiser

Dept. of Psychology - Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Nofar Duani

NYU Stern

Pascal Wagner-Egger

University of Fribourg

Date Written: August 30, 2016


This study investigates patterns of lay perception of economics, and in particular the place of conspiratorial thinking regarding the economic domain. We devised four types of accounts in the economic domain, over a range of questions regarding different aspects of the economy: the classical neo-liberal economic view (which we labeled Econ101), and the Conspiracy view (the destructive outcomes of economy are due to small and powerful groups who are manipulating the markets), to which we added the Government malfunction view (failures in the economy are due to the authorities), and the Bad Invisible Hand view (the invisible hand may go wrong, and the equilibrium reached by its doings may be undesirable). The last two views are the ones most strongly endorsed by our respondents, in the US, Israel and Switzerland.

The pattern of inter-correlations between the four accounts, and that between each and the psycho-social variables we examined, exhibits two clusters, Econ101 vs. the other three views of economy. This corresponds to a general opposition between people who trust the neoliberal economic system, and those opposed to it. What sets economic conspiratorial thinking apart are its links with other conspirational beliefs and with paranormal beliefs.

Note: This is a REVISED version (Nov 2016).

Keywords: Conspiracy Theories, Naive Theories, Lay Perception, Economic Thinking, Lay Economics

JEL Classification: Z10, Z13, D89, A13

Suggested Citation

Leiser, David and Duani, Nofar and Wagner-Egger, Pascal, The Conspiratorial Style in Lay Economic Thinking (August 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

David Leiser (Contact Author)

Dept. of Psychology - Ben Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105


Nofar Duani

NYU Stern ( email )

40 West 4th st.
New York, NY NY 10012
United States
7182139198 (Phone)

Pascal Wagner-Egger

University of Fribourg ( email )

Avenue de l'Europe 20
CH-1700 Fribourg

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