Culture Wars/Current Controversies

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

Many conspiracy theories are obviously wacked. But the main problem with many critics of conspiracy theories is that they simply assume that the values and ideological framework of centrist liberalism or social democracy are “true” in the manner of revealed religion as opposed to being just another set of preferences or institutional arrangements.



Conspiracy theories are as old as time but it’s only in more recent years that psychologists have begun to unravel the belief that some people have in them. According to researcher Goertzel (1994), conspiracy theories are explanations that refer to hidden groups working in secret to achieve sinister objectives.

Whether it’s the killing of a U.S. President (Kennedy), a mass-shooting involving a seemingly-normal older white, adult male (Las Vegas), or the Charlie Hebdo murders, conspiracy theories are never far behind. Even climate change has a conspiracy theory attached to it (the U.S. government is to blame, naturally).

What drives people’s belief in these “out there” explanations for significant events? Let’s find out.


2 replies »

  1. “ … personality traits such as openness to experience, distrust, low agreeability, and Machiavellianism are associated with conspiracy belief.”

    Of course people who believe in the magic bullet theory like this wahoo, would be closed minded, easily duped, and sheeplike. What a prick. I bet he will be prescribing re-education camps within a decade.

  2. For me conspiracy theories essentially function as a religion. As humans have trouble embracing or simply accepting the chaotic nature of existence, they must event a “they” behind every event. It can’t be the inherent chaotic or uncaring nature of existence, it must be the Jews, or the Liberals, or the Fascists, or the Reptilians pulling the strings.

    That’s not to say all “conspiracy theories” are bunk or without merit, but I think it’s important to not fall all the way down the rabbit hole while you’re peering in.

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