The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories: Why Do People Believe Them?

Redactie, ‘The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories: Why Do People Believe Them?’,, Psych Central, Healthline Media (October 5, 2017)

Conspiracy theories are explanations that refer to hidden groups working in secret to achieve sinister objectives. (…) Personality traits such as openness to experience, distrust, low agreeability, and Machiavellianism are associated with conspiracy belief. (…) In terms of cognitive processes, people with stronger conspiracy beliefs are more likely to overestimate the likelihood of co-occurring events, to attribute intentionality where it is unlikely to exist, and to have lower levels of analytic thinking. (…) We argue that people high in need for uniqueness should be more likely than others to endorse conspiracy beliefs because conspiracy theories represent the possession of unconventional and potentially scarce information. […] Moreover, conspiracy theories rely on narratives that refer to secret knowledge (…) or information, which, by definition, is not accessible to everyone, otherwise it would not be a secret and it would be a well-known fact. (…) It has been noted that individuals who endorse conspiracy theories are likely to be higher in powerlessness, social isolation and anomia, which is broadly defined as a subjective disengagement from social norms. (…) You can’t really argue with people who believe in conspiracy theories, because their beliefs aren’t rational. Instead, they are often fear- or paranoia-based beliefs.