Why Do People Believe Conspiracy Theories: A Theory

Posted: Feb 15 2017, 11:07am CST | by , Updated: Mar 7 2017, 10:51am CST, in News | Also on the Geek Mind

 

Why Do People Believe Conspiracy Theories: A Theory
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It seems like no matter where you go on the internet anymore, people are talking about some sort of crazy conspiracy theory. For the last few years, they have been centered around political conspiracy theories: is Obama actually a natural-born US citizen? Did the government create ISIS? Is Donald Trump part of the reptilian elite? While the answers to all of those questions are up for debate, it is clear that we wouldn't even be talking about them if not for the somewhat appealing nature of conspiracy theories.

According to CNN, this abundance of information could be the reason that conspiracy theories are able to grow.

With the age of the internet and social media, conspiracy theories have a place to grow and manifest. As seen with the Mandela Effect, it also serves as a sort of hive mind to strengthen the arguments that we already have for (and against) some of these theories. This allows them to grow and change into things that make more sense to the common person, according to Time.

In Applied Cognitive Psychology,Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor in social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, discusses the more modernized approach to conspiracy theories, saying "When I started this research, one of the things that I really found astonishing was how many people believe in certain conspiracy theories."

Their research focused on an area in Amsterdam where a new building was erected that accidentally destroyed the foundation of several homes. Many people in the area, who never showed a liking for conspiracy theories, believed this was done on purpose by the government so they could have more space. 

Part of this has to do, they believe, with the fact that people weren't in control of the situation: “We found that if you give people a feeling of control, then they are less inclined to believe those conspiracy theories,” he says. “Giving people a sense of control can make them less suspicious over governmental operations," says Prooijen.

In fact, according to The New York Times, conspiracy theories almost always can be traced back to one general idea: someone is out to get us.

It makes sense if you think about it in those terms - just look at the conspiracy theories that stick around for years. One of the worst days in many peoples' lives was 9/11 - they had no control and they still think about that day when entering planes or going to tall buildings. The same goes for something like Bigfoot: when we go into the woods, we are giving up part of our control and opening ourselves up to nature. Another popular conspiracy theory is that the FDA is blocking drugs to treat cancer - one of our worst fears whenever we go to the doctor (or perform a Google search).

Still, while most things on the internet seem to have a very specific segment of the population that is paying attention to it, conspiracy theories seem to cross borders and hit everyone.

In fact, according to the research by Uscinski and Parent and published in their book American Conspiracy Theories, conspiracy theory believers "cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.” Their book breaks down four characteristics for conspiracy theories:

  1. A group is acting together to do something that is...
  2. Secret or deeply hidden from public view in order to...
  3. "Alter institutions, usurp power, hide truth, or gain utility..."
  4. While harming the quest for common good. 

Of course, the theories that they have access to range quite a bit as they have more focus on the ones that directly impact their lives. For example, liberals are more likely to believe that there was Russian interference in the latest election whereas conservatives are more likely to believe the Hillary and Bill Clinton are mass murderers and human traffickers. White Americans are more likely to focus on a conspiracy theory about the government trying to take guns away whereas black Americans are more likely to believe that crack cocaine was purposely planted in communities of color, according to Scientific American

Put on your tin hats, because over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the different theories, breaking them apart and trying to see whether they have merit. If you have a conspiracy theory that you'd like to see covered, send us a message.

Conspiracy Theories Explained:

Do Human-Reptile Hybrids Rule the World?

Who Really Killed JFK

What Actually Happened During Hurricane Katrina?

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.

 

 

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