Scientific publication: the role of motivation in conspiracy thinking, government trust and COVID-19 vaccination intentions

Joachim WaterschootUncategorized


Vaccine preparedness is a critical step in efforts to achieve herd immunity and contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet many people remain reluctant to be vaccinated.

By integrating the literature on Self-Determination Theory, trust in authorities, and conspiracy theories, this research investigates (a) the direct and indirect effect of authority trust and conspiracy through underlying forms of motivations to (not) get vaccinated against COVID-19 and (b) whether these associations differ between the two largely politically independent Belgian language groups.

Using Structural Equation Modelling, we tested our models in two independent samples, in February 2021 (T1) and April 2021 (T2) (Total N = 8264).

At T1 and T2, trust in government and conspiracy theory both predict COVID-19 vaccination intention, positively and negatively, respectively. These relationships are entirely mediated by motivational factors, with identified motivations having a larger positive contribution. Looking at the linguistic context, differences emerge at T2, with French-speaking Belgians showing lower levels of government trust and higher levels of conspiracy thinking than Dutch-speaking Belgians.

The results show the importance of integrating distal (trust in government, conspiracy thinking) and proximal (motivational) variables to understand vaccination intention.

Van Oost, P., Yzerbyt, V., Schmitz, M., Vansteenkiste, M., Luminet, O., Morbée, S., Van den Bergh, O., Waterschoot, J. & Klein, O. (2022). The relation between conspiracism, government trust, and COVID-19 vaccination intentions: The key role of motivation. Social Science & Medicine, 114926.