Conspiracy claims and secret intentions as predictors of psychological coping and vaccine uptake during the COVID-19 pandemic

Yohanan Eshel, Shaul Kimhi, Hadas Marciano, Bruria Adini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 vaccination campaign led to hesitancy, deferment and un-resolving resistance of certain groups or individuals worldwide. Reasons for these reactions include distrust in the COVID-19 vaccine that was developed rapidly, lack of trust in governing entities and unrealistic optimism (UO). Each of these reasons may involve claims of secret intentions or conspiracy theories. The present study examined the role of three different explanations for vaccine hesitancy and rejection, in predicting psychological coping, distress, and level of vaccine uptake, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Blaming the vaccine and its producers, blaming the state's authorities, and expressing criticism in UO terms, which may hint of some secret intention that underlies the vaccination request. The research was conducted on a sample of 2002 Israeli adults who responded to an anonymous questionnaire about vaccine hesitancy and psychological coping. We assumed that conspiracy theories aimed at the medical and the governing authorities, and the UO insinuations of covert intentions of these authorities, represent two different psychological processes. UO responses to adversity are aimed at reducing anxiety attributing covert intentions to the authorities and the pharmaceutical companies is an expression of anxiety. Three major hypotheses are examined. First, stronger criticism of the vaccine will be associated with a lower level of vaccination. Second, more extreme criticism of the political and the medical authorities for requesting vaccination, raised as a reason for vaccine hesitation will positively predict a higher level of anxiety and negatively predict the extent of good psychological coping. A stronger opposition to the vaccine in terms of UO will be positively associated with a greater scope of resilience and coping and will be negatively linked to indicators of distress. Results supported these hypotheses and enhanced the ongoing discussion on the contribution of UO to psychological adjustment, by illustrating its beneficial effects on this adjustment. Conspiracy Theories and Secret Intentions as Predictors of Psychological Coping and Vaccine Uptake throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-318
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Conspiracy theories
  • Covert intentions
  • Psychological coping
  • Unrealistic optimism
  • Vaccine hesitancy and rejection
  • Vaccine uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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