Skip to main content

Motivated ignorance and social identity threat: the case of the Flat Earth.

Jones, I., Adams, A. and Mayoh, J., 2023. Motivated ignorance and social identity threat: the case of the Flat Earth. Social Identities, 29 (1), 79-94.

Full text available as:

[img] PDF
Motivated_Ignorance_anonymous.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 5 November 2024.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Official URL:

DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2023.2208033


Belief in a conspiracy theory may, for some, provide a social identity. Because of the nature of many conspiracy theories, social identities associated with such beliefs may be subject to varied and considerable threats. Whilst various mechanisms for dealing with social identity threat have received widespread attention, this paper introduces an as yet unexplored strategy – that of ‘motivated ignorance' – as a further mechanism for social identity maintenance. This is a behavior where individuals actively avoid freely available and accessible information in order to protect a social identity from information that may be harmful to the existence of the broader social group, and thus the individual’s own sense of self. Using a netnographic approach, we explored motivated ignorance related to the social identities formed around beliefs in the Flat Earth. Data revealed two categories of motivated ignorance. Firstly, that of ‘poisoning the well', where ignorance was justified by derogating the perceived epistemic quality of the information. The second was more instrumental, through ad hominem attacks on the source rather than the epistemic quality of information. The study suggests that motivated ignorance may be used as a strategy that may be used to protect social identities that are under threat, adding a further mechanism to the literature on coping with social identity threat.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:motivated ignorance; social identity; identity threat; Flat Earth
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:38534
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:17 May 2023 07:51
Last Modified:24 May 2024 11:34


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -