Some conspiracy theories are frankly harmless. Other — quite the contrary. Why people tend to absolutely categorically believe such a seemingly obviously controversial, contradictory, and sometimes blatantly false and even immoral facts which are found in various theories? I believe scientists found the answer.
In some pockets in America, the measles spread at an unprecedented rate. In 2017, it was registered 58 cases of illness in Minnesota is the largest outbreak in the past 30 years. In 2008 there was a similar large outbreak started, how do you think a seven year old boy who was not vaccinated. In less than ten years before the measles in the U.S. was virtually eliminated. Gradually her return, according to scientists, can be directly connected with people who have escaped vaccination.
Before the measles vaccine was first introduced to the world in 1963, this disease could lead to death. In the 1960s, measles was sick millions, thousands were hospitalized and hundreds die every year. Meanwhile, in Australia in 2016, released a report in which 23 mortality due to measles can be prevented through vaccination from 2005 to 2014. Moreover, this vaccine is readily available.
Some people are not vaccinated on principle. In the West they gave the name “antivaxer”, and they largely believe that vaccinations are harmful and that the pharmaceutical companies (and others) hide the devastating consequences of vaccination. And this is just one of the many conspiracy theories that have become impotent and stupid in the face of scientific evidence — a quick search on the Internet you will find hundreds of such.
Deniers of climate change, for example, are convinced that the Earth is not getting warmer, and scientists manipulated the facts to justify their grants and hopelessness. What’s funny, those who is a supporter of any of the conspiracy theories, a willingness to believe in others.
Although some conspiracy theories are relatively harmless — for example, that NASA faked the moon landing or that sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles died years ago and instead went to the scene of a double. Others are devastating.
Scientists are gradually finding more and more factors that collectively give rise to the phenomenon of gullibility in conspiracy theories. Exploring these factors, researchers hope to mitigate truly dangerous consequences of the division of society, which lead proponents of such theories.
As the phenomenon of conspiracy theories is nothing new. Even in the third century the lost gospel of Philip told the people that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife; this myth, in particular, was embodied in popular literature such as “the da Vinci Code”. Some have found traces of a secret society of the Illuminati are washing people’s brains, rooted as much in 1776. Some even denied the Holocaust. Despite the obvious evidence, some strongly believe that the Nazis did not kill six million Jews during the Second world war.
Karen Douglas, a psychologist from the University of Kent, asks the question: why are beliefs and beliefs are so firmly settled in the minds of people?
The issue is complicated. Given the huge number of existing conspiracy theories and the fact that every second person on the planet believes although one of them, to represent the average image of a man who is deeply mistaken, very difficult. Who among us would not want to believe that he was alive, his favorite painter or artist? Elvis Presley and Tupac Shakur are still “alive” in the hearts of the people, or, of course, stolen by the inhabitants of Venus and continue to live quietly.
“At some level we are all suspicious and do not trust the government,” says Douglas. Fear of groups or people we don’t understand, it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. “In some ways it adapt to be suspicious to others for your personal safety,” says the psychologist.
But when Douglas decided to delve into this issue, she found a buffet of explanations why some people are more likely to believe conspiracies than others. First, such is an integral and bordering on narcissism, need for uniqueness, as the study showed. So, it seems like he has access to lost information or alternative “secret” explanation of certain world events. As said scientist Michael BILLIG in 1984, “conspiracy theory offers the chance to obtain a concealed important and immediate knowledge so that a believer can become an expert who has knowledge, not even a recognized scientist.”
Other studies have shown that conspiracy theories help people to give meaning to the world when he gets out of control when they are worried or feel powerless or threatened. People find it hard to accept the fact that we live in a world in which can occur a random act of violence, like mass murder. Therefore, according to Professor of psychology University of Bristol Stephan Lewandowsky, it can be psychologically comfortable to believe that random events are some “powerful person”. People are just “addicted to answers”, says another study.
When in 2017 in Las Vegas there was a shooting, the bloodiest shootout in US history, which killed 58 people, blamed everyone. The Islamist group, violent group of anti-fascists, bloody ritual sacrifices of the society of the Illuminati. “We don’t like the idea that something terrible could happen just like that, so psychologically comfortable to believe that every terrible event is well organized powerful people who should be held responsible,” says Lewandowski.
Education can also play a role in beliefs about the world. Children who grew up without attachment to the parents — communicate poorly with one or both parents — may be more receptive to conspiracy theories. So the study showed, which will be published in April 2018 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“These people are exaggerating the threat compared to the other,” explains Douglas. “They help people explain or justify their concerns”. This approach works or not is another question. Maybe not, and people lose control. Conspiracy theories can cause in people’s lack of confidence, powerlessness and disappointment. But once in this state, these people are likely to continue to believe in conspiracy theories.
The fact that so many people choose faith in conspiracy theories, gives rise to potentially dangerous consequences, despite the fact that some theories absurd, silly or even funny.
For example, skeptics of climate change are not going to reduce the amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and to support politicians and businessmen who advocate the reduction of emissions. Antivaxer spread the disease, creating a danger to children. This is especially dangerous in an age when there is total misinformation by the forces of the media and the Internet. It undermines the very Foundation of faith in their own beliefs.
It seems the truth is no easy way to make your way to the top. Scientists frustrating that the presentation of precise facts, “to refute” conspiracy theory, doesn’t usually help, and even more — can make a false faith stronger. Because the more people believe in the conspiracy, the less he is inclined to trust scientific facts. Any arguments against conspiracy theories will be interpreted as arguments in its favor. Conspiracy theorists deny science and encourage others to do the same.
This underlines what a polarized world we live in. We all live in one world, and the consequences of our decisions affect us all. If we can’t even agree on basic scientific things, which by definition should not be controversial, we will definitely have problems with making decisions.
Although a single solution may not be research that considers the psychology of people-conspiracy theorists, can be the beginning. We now know that the ideology of human rights is often connected with his belief. The most staunch denier of climate change, for example, will represent the ideology of the free market, as found by Lewandowski. Thanks to the work of Douglas and others, we know many of the traits that make people prone to believe in something without evidence. We need to understand that we love to see patterns where there are none. The reality is that we live in a stochastic Universe. Really want to see narrative, but it is not, as there are no waves, we only connect points on the sand.
Another strategy that may help is to teach people to better understand reliable sources, and to force public figures to stop spreading misinformation. People who are entrenched in their beliefs are unlikely to change their opinion, but those who have not yet dived into the maelstrom of misinformation with a head can think better of it before the fact evidence.