Symposium on Conspiracy Theory Research, 25 November, Helsinki

FINSCI Symposium on Conspiracy Theory Research

How do people get hooked on conspiracy theories?

Keynote speaker Prof. Jan-Willem van Prooijen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and several domestic and international conspiracy theory researchers try to answer the question using perspectives and approaches from philosophy, behavioural sciences, religion, psychology and communication.

Prof. van Proojien holds the positions of Associate Professor of Social Psychology and Program Director of the Psychology Bachelor at VU Amsterdam; Senior Researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR); and Endowed Professor of Radicalization, Extremism, and Conspiracy thinking at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at Maastricht University. He is interested in the dark side of human beings, particularly in the context of politics, law, and society – specifically in terms of conspiracy theories, unethical behaviour, and radical ideologies.

The symposium is organised by the FINSCI project, which investigates Finnish science capital, i.e. the resources a person has in relation to science: the things they do and talk about, the people they know and the ways they use science and the scientific method in their everyday lives. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC). The FINSCI consortium director, Associate Professor Johanna K. Kaakinen (Department of Psychology & Speech-language Pathology, University of Turku) leads a research group, which specifically investigates Finnish conspiracy theory beliefs and their influencing background factors. The first results of the research group's population survey have been published in Senior Research Fellow Pasi Kivioja's (University of Turku) book Salaliittoteorioiden ihmemaassa: tositarinoita ihmisistä kaninkolossa [In the wonderland of conspiracy theories: true stories of people in the rabbit hole] (Docendo, 2022). Working as a researcher, non-fiction writer and journalist, Kivioja has gained an extensive understanding of the Finnish subculture formed around conspiracy theories. Kivioja will act as chair of the symposium.

Date, time and place

Friday 25 November 2022, 9.00–16.15
University of Helsinki, auditorium 230 Aurora, Siltavuorenpenger 10, 2nd floor
Helsinki, Finland

After the symposium, from 17.00 to 18.30, Prof. Jan-Willem van Prooijen will answer the toughest questions related to conspiracy theories in an event open to the public. The event will be hosted at Epicenter, Mikonkatu 9.


Please register by 24 November via this link!

Symposium programme

9.00–9.15 Welcome and opening words | Johanna K. Kaakinen, Associate Professor & Pasi Kivioja, Senior Research Fellow, University of Turku

9.15–10.15 Keynote: “Belief in conspiracy theories and extremism” | Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) & Endowed Professor, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology, Maastricht University

10.15–10.30 Break

10.30–11.00 “A Few Words on the Epistemology of Conspiracy Theories” | Juha Räikkä, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Contemporary History and Political Science, University of Turku

11.00–11.30 “Finnish conspiracy beliefs — Results from the FINSCI belief survey 2021” | Johanna K. Kaakinen, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology & Speech-language Pathology, University of Turku & Director of project FINSCI (SRC)

11.30 – 12.30 Lunch break (self-funded)

12.30–13.00 “‘Is QAnon a cult?’ – Religion and the circulation of conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic” | Katja Valaskivi, Professor, Helsinki Research Hub on Religion, Media and Social Change (Heremes), University of Helsinki 

13.00–13.30 “How to address conspiracist ideation and other attitude roots of vaccine hesitancy? Results from the JITSUVAX project” | Angelo Fasce, research fellow, project JITSUVAX (EU Horizon 2020), Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra

13.30–13.45 Break

13.45–14.15 “A double-edged sword: Russia and conspiracy theories in Poland” | Kinga Polynczuk-Alenius, postdoctoral researcher, Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki & Polish Academy of Sciences

14.15–14.45 “Conspiracy theory as, in, and about political mobilization” | Niko Pyrhönen, university researcher, projects MERELPO & SEPOS, Department of Study of Religions, University of Helsinki

14.45–15.15 Coffee break at Unicafé Olivia, Siltavuorenpenger 5A, 1st floor.

15.15–15.30 Surprise program!

15.30–16.15 Panel: “The Future of Conspiracy Theory (Research)” |  Jan-Willem van Prooijen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Katja Valaskivi (University of Helsinki), Kinga Polynczuk-Alenius (Polish Academy of Sciences) & symposium chair Pasi Kivioja (University of Turku)


Public event & online stream

17.00-18.30 "How do people get hooked on conspiracy theories?" | Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam & Pasi Kivioja, Senior Research Fellow, University of Turku

Link to the online stream.

Additional information

Admission to the symposium and the public event is free of charge with advance registration. The symposium and public event will be held in English.

UniCafe Olivia will serve self-funded buffet lunch next door at Siltavuorenpenger 5 A, 1st floor. Please inform us whether you will have lunch on the premises via the registration link. The lunch price is 11,30€ (student and UH staff discounted prices apply). There are also many other restaurants nearby, such as Ravintola Korea House, Family 家常菜馆, 16 Boom, Espresso Edge & Zen Sushi.

For those travelling from abroad, here are a few accommodation options at a walking distance from the symposium venue: Scandic Paasi, Scandic Kaisaniemi, Scandic Hakaniemi, Sokos Hotel Presidentti, Sokos Hotel Vaakuna.

Data privacy

Data privacy statement for events organised by FINSCI (in Finnish).


Project coordinator Daria Pritup,

The Fostering Finnish Science Capital (FINSCI) project combines research from several different fields and creates new knowledge on the psychological, social, and cultural factors behind science learning and knowledge-based decision making, and how they could be cultivated. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) established within the Academy of Finland. FINSCI is part of the council’s Information literacy and evidence-informed decision-making (LITERACY) program, which seeks solutions to how information can be used critically and constructively to support individual and societal decision-making and activities. The FINSCI consortium includes the University of Turku, the University of Eastern Finland, and the University of Helsinki, as well as the Finnish Science Center Heureka, and science association Skope ry. More information on the project: