Register ICMag Forum Menu Features Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
You are viewing our:
in:
Forums > Talk About It! > Toker's Den > Speakers Corner > Conspiracy Theory and Psychology (You're all mad!)

Thread Title Search
Post Reply
Conspiracy Theory and Psychology (You're all mad!) Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 01-11-2021, 12:00 PM #1
Chi13
Member

Join Date: Jul 2020
Posts: 463
Chi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant futureChi13 has a brilliant future
Conspiracy Theory and Psychology (You're all mad!)

I have been interested and disturbed by who and why people believe in conspiracy theories. I have been reading a bit of the psychology behind it and thought I'd share this article.

True False Believers: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy theories are byproducts of basic mind processes.
Posted Apr 21, 2020
Prevention is hard for us to do, and even harder to appreciate. This is because it requires long-term thinking, which is not our species’ specialty. It is also because paradoxically, successful prevention efforts tend to look like overreactions.

Prevention isn’t exciting, and doesn’t produce easy heroes. When something is broken, the problem is self-evident, and the person who fixes it is the clear hero. When a problem is prevented, nothing bad happens, and we often can’t know for certain whether it would have happened had we not intervened. Perhaps the calamity we claim to have averted would not have materialized in the first place. That’s why all the TV shows are about detectives and lawyers and surgeons—the people who solve murders, try criminals, and save the sick, not the people who prevent criminality and sickness from happening in the first place.

The current coronavirus response constitutes a public, large-scale, and acute attempt at prevention. Our preventative measures, in addition to the technical, economic, and political problems they pose, are also bound to be psychologically trying. We can therefore anticipate a backlash. Such a backlash will take various forms, but without a doubt, it will involve the flowering of a thousand conspiracy theories. The 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory is but the beginning.

Just a few days ago in Columbus, Ohio where I live, some of the Trump-supported demonstrators agitating to "liberate" America from preventative quarantine measures were waving a sign that had on it a picture of a rat wearing a Star of David and the caption: “the real plague.”

This, of course, manifests anew one of the most enduring conspiracy theories, the reliable go-to move for conspirators everywhere--the anti-Semitic canard about the Jews secretly running the world.

Being Jewish, albeit one who's been thus far rudely excluded from our people’s Secret World Domination Zoom sessions--and given the popularity and danger of such theories—I thought it worthwhile to try to shed some light on this phenomenon.

A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event. More specifically, as the British psychologist Christopher Thresher-Andrews puts it: “Conspiracy theories are unsubstantiated, less plausible alternatives to the mainstream explanation of an event; they assume everything is intended, with malignity.”

Why are we so susceptible? The answer, of course, is: It’s complicated. Multiple factors and motives—among them economic, historical, and sociological—are involved. Yet as always when it comes to us humans, psychology too plays a major role. Psychological research has uncovered several mechanisms underlying our perpetual penchant for purveying preposterous plots. Here are a few central ones:

First is the fundamental attribution error, which is our tendency to prefer dispositional explanations to situational ones. When we observe an event happening, we are much more likely to attribute it to some intentional, internal motive than to circumstance and happenstance.

Conspiracy theories are by definition dispositional—someone planned this for a purpose. They are thus uniquely satisfying to our minds. Australian philosopher Steve Clarke writes: “As explanations, conspiracy theories are highly dispositional. When conspiracies occur it is because conspirators intend them to occur and act on their intentions … In most cases, the received view, the conventionally accepted nonconspiratorial alternative to a particular conspiracy theory, is a situational explanation.”

Second is confirmation bias and its brother, the belief perseverance phenomenon—two well-known aspects of our cognitive hardware. Confirmation bias refers to the fact that we tend to become attached to our beliefs and to search for (or interpret) information in ways that confirms our preconceptions. Once we settle on a conviction, we will search, remember, and accept only evidence that supports it, while ignoring and neglecting to seek disconfirming evidence. This is why people online gravitate to sites that echo their preexisting beliefs and prejudices.

Belief perseverance refers to the fact that we seek to maintain our beliefs even after the information that originally gave rise to it has been refuted. Once we’re set in our beliefs, evidence to the contrary will be dismissed, actively.

This is why politicians promote polls that show them to be popular (confirmation bias) and label as "fake" those polls that don’t (belief perseverance). This is why when you’re in love, you tend to latch onto everything good about your love object and gloss over or fail to notice warning signs (confirmation bias). When your friends warn you about the love object, you accuse them of lying out of jealousy (belief perseverance).

Thus, ironically, once we settle on a belief, however deluded or implausible (e.g., the earth is flat), we’re highly likely to seek and believe information that supports it (“looks flat to me!”) while rejecting any data to the contrary, however plausible, as false, malevolent, or deluded (“The science? All the scientists are lying”).

A third psychological factor is our desire to be uniquely knowledgeable, to possess knowledge that others don’t. Knowledge is power. And we all prefer feeling powerful to feeling powerless. This is gratifying and empowering for us particularly when the complexity and uncertainty of life feels overwhelming. “Conspiracy theories … supply a seductive ego boost. Believers often consider themselves part of a select in-group that — unlike the deluded masses — has figured out what’s really going on.”

Fourth is our brain’s adaptive capacity for pattern recognition. As Johns Hopkins neurologist Mark Mattson puts it: “Superior pattern processing is the essence of the evolved human brain.” It is, “the fundamental basis of most, if not all, unique features of the human brain including intelligence, language, imagination, invention, and the belief in imaginary entities such as ghosts and gods.”

Indeed, our brain has evolved in a dangerous environment where the ability to "fill in the blanks," to guess the whole from a few parts, conferred important survival advantages. If I can make out from a distance the hidden predator in the bushes, I’m more likely to survive. Thus our brain came to specialize in meaning-making and pattern-finding. In extreme form, this tendency is known as Pareidolia.

While entertaining at times, as when we see a face on the moon and Jesus in a piece of burnt toast, this tendency has a shadow side, since in the absence of a pattern, our brain will tend to invent one and impose it on the world, as when we think that a flipped coin is ‘due’ to hit ‘heads’ after a string of ‘tails,’

Our brain seeks order, cause and effect, and intentionality. But life is filled with chaos, blind chance, illusory correlations, and disorder. When these conditions impinge on us we become distressed, and to reduce the distress, we are compelled to make stories that fit the demands of our brain, rather than the facts of the world; stories in which intentionality, order, coherence, and purpose exist, albeit in hidden form—e.g.: conspiracy. As psychologists Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Karen Douglas conclude in their review of the literature: “Evidence suggests that the aversive feelings that people experience when in crisis—fear, uncertainty, and the feeling of being out of control—stimulate a motivation to make sense of the situation, increasing the likelihood of perceiving conspiracies in social situations."

Moreover, as social animals, our brains have evolved to seek patterns not only in the external world but also in the interpersonal realm. The capacity to guess what another person knows and how that knowledge will affect the person’s behavior, what psychologists call, "theory of mind," develops in early childhood. That ability is foundational for our complex social commerce. In this context, we have evolved to speculate of the intentions of others and pay particular attention to their perceived hostile intentions, since the cost of missing such intentions is higher than the costs of a ‘false alarm.’ Believing falsely that you’re plotting to kill me will not get me killed. But failing to notice your murderous intents will.

Interestingly, the pattern recognition capability that gives rise to conspiracy theorizing also lies at the root of another defining feature of humanity—religion. Conspiracy theories are quite analogous to religion in that, “their contents, forms, and functions parallel those found in beliefs of institutionalized religions.”

Like religions, conspiracy theories tend to assume a powerful, unseen force that is responsible for those things that happen but defy explanation. Like religions, conspiracy theories tend to ascribe power to an entity that is hidden yet active in the world, that is more powerful than us, but not entirely unlike us psychologically (God rages; God forgives).

As with religion, conspiracy believers are uniquely reluctant to be swayed by argument. As law professors Cass Sunstein (University of Chicago) and Adrian Vermeule (Harvard) note: “A distinctive feature of conspiracy theories is their self-sealing quality. Conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy.”

Finally, like religions, conspiracy theories are, at the core, about community, manifesting our most fundamental tribal impulse—the psychological need to belong, to be part of a well-defined in-group and, by extension, to recognize and fight enemy out-groups. Like religions, conspiracy theories are group phenomena, shared by communication rituals that help adherents manage emotions by, “transforming unspecific anxieties into focused fears.” As in religion, successful (enduring) conspiracy theories produce narratives that are “framed as conflicts over sacred values.” With religion, the false God is never our God. With the conspiracy theory, the menacing shadowy group is never our group. Conspiracy theories are always about ‘the other.’ As psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen notes: “the root of conspiracy thinking lies in our ancient instinct to divide the social world into ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ categories.” The same psychological processes that produce God for 'us,' produce conspiracy theories about 'them.'

Our basic psychological structure has remained largely unchanged for as long as we can tell. To wit, ancient biblical stories, not to mention centuries-old Shakespearean plays, speak to us now because the characters in them--their tendencies, fears, struggles, and desires—resemble us greatly. As long as our basic psychology remains unchanged, conspiracy theories will continue to flourish as by-products of the evolved processes of our mind.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/b...iracy-theories
Chi13 is offline Quote


12 members found this post helpful.
Old 01-11-2021, 01:04 PM #2
h.h.
Banned

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: desert
Posts: 8,516
h.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivor
Excellent. I was just reading another article blaming the liberal elites.
Quote:
"About To Begin"

If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night
And the music that plays in your ears
In your head you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear
And the music that plays in your head
As it flows up from the ground
Taking all who hear that sound
Close your eyes, its about to begin

Hardly daring to breath, a new life you perceive
You try hard not to break the spell
While at once it seems both, so far and yet so close
If you reach out to touch, it will be gone
As it flows up from the ground
Taking all who hear that sound

Close your eyes, its about to begin
Close your eyes, its about to begin
Close your eyes, its about to begin
Close your eyes, its about to begin
Trower
h.h. is offline Quote


Old 01-11-2021, 01:46 PM #3
NEW ENGLAND
Senior Member

NEW ENGLAND's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Gillette Stadium
Posts: 6,176
NEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivorNEW ENGLAND is a survivor
I WANT TO BELIEVE

Fox Mulder
NEW ENGLAND is offline Quote


Old 01-11-2021, 01:51 PM #4
MoeFunk
Member

Join Date: Jun 2020
Posts: 284
MoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of lightMoeFunk is a glorious beacon of light
People are gullible, and like to connect dots that aren't necessarily connected.

On the other hand, conspiracies happen. All the time.
MoeFunk is offline Quote


Old 01-11-2021, 02:23 PM #5
h.h.
Banned

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: desert
Posts: 8,516
h.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivorh.h. is a survivor
Propaganda happens all the time. Logic becomes critical.
h.h. is offline Quote


3 members found this post helpful.
Old 01-11-2021, 02:49 PM #6
nepalnt21
FRRRRRResh!

nepalnt21's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 2,357
nepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivornepalnt21 is a survivor
there are conspiracies, and then there are conspiracy theories like the one where our world is a disc with an ice wall around it, and the navy sends anyone away that gets too close to the truth. i mean edge.
nepalnt21 is offline Quote


3 members found this post helpful.
Old 01-11-2021, 03:11 PM #7
G.O. Joe
Senior Member

G.O. Joe's Avatar

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Ditchweed City
Posts: 1,616
G.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant futureG.O. Joe has a brilliant future
According to all that emptiness everyone comes up with conspiracy theories themselves organically. There are those who create, those who believe, and those who do neither, and the psychology of the groups is not the same. It seems that the purpose of this writing is to deny propaganda and the art and reasons for influencing others, using said art.
__________________
In the clinical field, the practical application of these substances must be awaited with the usual necessary patience. - Roger Adams
Marihuana
February 19, 1942
G.O. Joe is offline Quote


3 members found this post helpful.
Old 01-11-2021, 04:01 PM #8
Sunshineinabag
Senior Member

Sunshineinabag's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Woods
Posts: 4,236
Sunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivorSunshineinabag is a survivor
Quote:
Originally Posted by h.h. View Post
Excellent. I was just reading another article blaming the liberal elites.
Trower
Go pay reperations
Sunshineinabag is offline Quote


Old 01-12-2021, 12:02 AM #9
Hempy McNoodle
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 3,843
Hempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivor
I am more interested in the people who are interested in the "conspiracy theorist's" psychology and how THEY formulate THEIR beliefs and opinions.
Hempy McNoodle is offline Quote


4 members found this post helpful.
Old 01-12-2021, 12:05 AM #10
Hempy McNoodle
Senior Member

Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 3,843
Hempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivorHempy McNoodle is a survivor
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hempy McNoodle View Post
I am more interested in the people who are interested in the "conspiracy theorist's" psychology and how THEY formulate THEIR beliefs and opinions.
I read an article that said it was a condition known as 'group think.'
Hempy McNoodle is offline Quote


2 members found this post helpful.

Post Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


All times are GMT +2. The time now is 11:24 AM.




This site is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
You must be of legal age to view ICmag and participate here.
All postings are the responsibility of their authors.
Powered by: vBulletin Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.