Tolerance to uncertainty regarding the future is conditioned and moderated by the degree of control that the subject perceives over what happens in the environment . One of the psychological mechanisms that is activated with the aim of seeking and increasing the feeling of control is magical thinking . Among the most frequent expressions of magical thinking are beliefs that contradict the laws and bases of the current scientific knowledge. These beliefs are usually called pseudoscientific beliefs . In this case, the Scientific Unexplained Beliefs Model (hereafter SUB) justifies the social and psychological functionality of pseudoscientific beliefs as a way to feel safe and find an explanation or meaning to the uncertain circumstances that occur throughout life . However, pseudoscientific beliefs - as in most belief systems - also allow the subject to make decisions and take actions that generate behavioral responses whose consequences can affect the mental health of people .
Social, health and theoretical background
In recent months, many countries have been severely affected by the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus . One of the most frequent legislative measures was the social quarantine of the population in their homes and the cessation of economic activities considered nonessential [7, 8]. In this line, the media reported that during the first week of quarantine, some products related to personal hygiene were exhausted in the respective establishments . Although sanitary masks and hydroalcoholic gels were the first products to disappear, it was reported that toilet paper had also run out [10, 11]. This is the case in most European countries but also includes the United States and Australia, in which some people also bought this product en masse . This type of behavior is classified into compulsive behaviors related to fear, anxiety and magical thinking [13, 14]. Similarly, some studies also suggest that they are responses to the need to seek control . Other studies indicate that this extraordinary social situation produced by COVID-19 has generated an increase in magical beliefs and herd behavior, which is correlated with the increase in perceived stress during quarantine [16, 17].
The consequences of pseudoscientific beliefs on the health of people were analyzed and investigated from multiple perspectives [4, 18]. These perspectives can be summarized in two models: the first model is based on the psychopathological and symptomatic effects that pseudoscientific beliefs produce in patients [19,20,21,22,23]. Most studies conclude that pseudoscientific beliefs represent an attribute of the psychotic phenotype, which is included within the psychosis continuum model [24, 25]. At the statistical and epidemiological level, its effects can be synthesized in two points: on the one hand, in an increased probabilistic risk of contracting or developing a future psychotic picture (e.g., paranoid pictures)  and, on the other hand, in the clinical or subclinical development of the attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome [27, 28]. This is a relatively new classification included in the DSM-5 that is being studied . In any case, according to this perspective, pseudoscientific beliefs would not represent adaptive models of thought or systems of meanings for the patient and, therefore, would constitute behaviors preferably to be extinguished during the therapeutic course of treatment . It is important to note that the medical conception of mental health has been widely criticized by some research . The problem of the psychopathological perspective is that clinical judgment is often confused with moral judgment on the patient’s own beliefs, which determines what is “correct” (functional) versus “incorrect” (dysfunctional) [4, 32]. The mixture of moral and clinical judgment incurs in the Naturalistic Fallacy [33, 34]: - Pseudoscientific beliefs are dysfunctional (imperative argument); then, − it is not correct that a person or patient can have pseudoscientific beliefs because they are dysfunctional (fallacious argument). The separation between decisions involving clinical judgment and moral assessments is essential if the respect and freedom of the patient is to be guaranteed .
The second model is outside the psychopathological framework, but within this conception, pseudoscientific beliefs are also understood as cognitive errors or perception biases [5, 35]. This perspective includes perceptual distortion and cognitive styles . In fact, some studies concluded that subjects that believe in pseudosciences develop causal illusions more frequently and more heightened than nonbelieving subjects . The psychobiological function of perceptual distortion is based on survival: if the cause of a phenomenon is known, the cause itself and the respective phenomenon could be prevented; this would allow anticipating environmental threats and finding answers that would guarantee the survival of the species [5, 37, 38]. In this area, the most studied perceptual distortions are causal illusions and pareidolia , which is also very common in believers in pseudoscience .
The social marginality theory explains the production of pseudoscientific beliefs as a consequence of the personal and geographic isolation of some communities . According to some studies, the greater the social isolation, the higher the levels of magical thinking that individuals in the respective communities who would remain on the “margin” of society can develop [41,42,43]. Likewise, it was observed that marginality was also positively correlated with an increase in anomalous perceptions . Anomalous perceptions are apparently hallucinatory experiences, and those who live them usually experience them as a phenomenon without scientific explanation . Believers tend to interpret anomalous perceptions as the justification that “they have experienced a supernatural phenomenon” . The hypothetical model of social marginality requires analyzing communication systems, access and the quality of information consumption.
Precisely, during the social quarantine, the consumption of information could be characterized by (1) the disintermediation between the original information sources and the people-recipients of the respective information , 2) the acceleration of digitalization, which has facilitated mass access to information and has changed the way of informing oneself about what is happening in reality ; and (3), the two previous characteristics contribute to what Innerarity and Colomina (2020) call an infodemic or population saturation in the face of so much amount and type of information . At the same time, these three characteristics and the lack of trust in conventional media suggest that the population could have more difficulties in differentiating objective and credible information from pseudoscientific information based on false news [46, 48].
In reality, social marginality - originally understood as the personal and geographic isolation of the population - during the quarantine, it has been limited to only physical isolation between people, since the acceleration of digitization has allowed individuals with access to technologies, to remain communicated. In other words, the population could suffer various types of “marginalities”, not limited exclusively to the initial idea of “social marginality”. In this line, the quarantine derived from COVID-19 would be related to a “physical-affective” marginality, whose lack of physical contact would have an impact on the management, expression and use of emotions [13, 14]. Thus, this type of marginality could be understood as a physical-affective marginality that would be different from the social marginality theory”.
Therefore, all the aforementioned involve understanding the social quarantine from three perspectives: (1) should address the psychopathological risks that the social marginality theory warns. According to the social marginality theory, the concept of psychopathological risks should be understood or defined as the tendency to develop attenuated symptoms related to schizoaffective disorders in the general non-clinical population . This expression should not be extrapolated to other mental disorders. (2) The characteristics related to the use and interpretation of the information during quarantine should be taken into account. (3) Finally, the perception of lack of control (related to tolerance to uncertainty) should also be included, which according to the SUB model  would explain the development of magical and pseudoscientific beliefs. As determined by the SUB model, pseudoscientific beliefs can be defined as the irrational acceptance (based on magical thinking) of the existence of phenomena that are impossible according to the epistemology of current scientific knowledge .
These three points allow characterizing the social quarantine and propose the objectives of this research. Likewise, the definitions of psychopathological risks and pseudoscientific beliefs also represent an operative way of defining variables that are also found in the objectives.
This study aims to analyze the impact of social quarantine during the COVID-19 crisis on magical thinking, pseudoscientific beliefs, anomalous perceptions and psychotic phenotype in subjects from the Spanish general population. The discussion and debates derived from this study are as follows:
If one of the characteristics of quarantine is based on social marginality, then the debate raised by this research is based on the following question: How would physical-affective marginality affect the levels of magical thinking and pseudoscientific beliefs?
If disintermediation, the acceleration of digitization and the infodemic are implicit attributes present in the quarantine, the following debate also arises: Could the probable changes observed in the scores of pseudoscientific beliefs be explained by the three previous characteristics?
If the perception of lack of control is one of the causal factors that would justify why pseudoscientific beliefs are developed, then the following question could be discussed: Could disintermediation, the acceleration of digitalization and the infodemic increase the lack of perceived control generating a consecutive increase in pseudoscientific beliefs? For this question, the results should be obtained with significant increases in pseudoscientific beliefs, anomalous perceptions and the psychotic phenotype.
Finally, the study contrasted the following hypothesis: the levels of pseudoscientific beliefs and anomalous perceptions vary significantly before (pretests) and after (posttests) quarantine due to the effects of “physical-affective marginality”.