Why are so many people drawn to conspiracy theories in times of crisis?
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I think this research is missing the component of "liking" or "attraction." You seek out people that you're attracted to or that you like. You don't start liking people because you hang out with them. Conversely, there may be people you like a lot but don't spend time with for one reason or another.
The dimension of liking/attraction needs to be added as a separate variable.
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