There are a large number of people (albeit a statistically minority) who hold conspiracy-type beliefs. These people interpret different events in a different way from most, not accepting the official version and looking for another vision that might be more or less viable.
Some of these theories are viable, while others are bizarre and implausible. Why people believe in conspiracies is something that has been investigated many timesFind some factors that may have an effect on the likelihood of believing. In this article, we make a brief reference to some of them.
What are conspiracy theories?
To understand why we believe in conspiracy theories, we first need to be clear about what a conspiracy theory is. We define as such all this theory or developed belief which relates to the association of different people and / or organizations whose link aims to achieve the manipulation of events to achieve their goals, return to the majority opinion and often said goal or goals. means to achieve this or hide something that negatively affects the rest of the population, a part of it or even a particular individual.
Generally, these theories are based on the development of a concrete interpretation of a phenomenon, go beyond verified and empirically contrasted facts and data. The event in question on which they are based may have already occurred, occur in the future, or be considered to be occurring now.
It should be noted that these theories do not appear out of nowhere: they are based on some sort of real event that is interpreted in an alternate way. In some cases they look like delusions different mental disorders, the content of which is not supported by empirical evidence (although some elements are considered proof of theory), are not shared by most and are generally fixed and unresponsive to the change, which is often considered that anyone who denies them can be part of the conspiracy.
Often, maintaining and believing in these theories can generate alterations and repercussions in the subject’s life and even in other people, such as avoiding exposure to certain stimuli even though they may be beneficial (for example, vaccines), by being the ridiculous and critical object, hampering social interaction or even causing a complete isolation of the person (either because the person himself is isolated or by social rejection). It can also adversely affect academic or professional performance, as the case may be.
Not all conspiracy theories are the same. Some of these theories include fantasy or science fiction elements, While others are relatively plausible and may result from the interpretation of real facts. In fact, although the vast majority are generally false or a misrepresentation of real facts, some theories initially considered conspiratorial or delusional have turned out to be real, as happened with Martha Mischel with the Watergate affair and the corruption. in Nixon’s time. Existence of the Jewish Holocaust. or the MK Ultra project.
Factors related to belief in conspiracy theories
Although several of these theories are very interesting, as a rule, the majority of the population does not believe them. While some are defended by more or less groups and individuals, statistically few people consider them to be true, support them and defend them.
You have to ask yourself what makes these people believe in one or more conspiracy theories, if there are common aspects that make it easier to believe in poorly shared theories and of which there is often no tangible proof and irrefutable (which in turn in many of these theories is taken as evidence of their cover-up). In this sense, various inquiries have been carried out in this regard. Some of the factors that have been found are related to this type of beliefs the plots are as follows.
1. Differences in perception
Some studies reflect that people who believe in supernatural phenomena and conspiracy theories considered irrational (although we are talking about a nonclinical population, without psychopathology) tend to have certain differences from those who do not in terms of perception of models. This perception is what causes us to identify facts and stimuli from a previously acquired pattern or stimulus, making associations between the two.
In the case of those who believe in conspiracy theories, they would tend more easily than the rest of the population to identify illusory patterns, connecting elements that are not necessarily related and considering that they have cause and effect relationships. between them. In other words, they are more likely to connect stimuli and elements considered to be associated although its appearance is random. This has been observed in research which has worked on the perception of models facing the presentation of visual stimuli, tending to make more recognition of the supposed models.
2. Need for control / Intolerance of uncertainty
Some of the people who decide to believe in such theories reflect a strong need to control or manage uncertainty about events for those who cannot find an explanation or the existing explanation does not convince them only. Human beings tend to seek to endow the world with structure and the events that take place in it, and conspiracy theories could fill this need in the absence of an explanation more conforming to the same patterns.
Likewise, people who have little sense of control over what they are going through are often more likely to believe that another person is in charge.
3. Vital events and learning
Another factor to keep in mind is the existence of high levels of stress, the specific events we have experienced in our personal history, and the learnings we have gained throughout life. For example, it is easier to believe in a government conspiracy if you consider that it has defrauded, deceived or used us on some occasion. It has been observed that situations of intense and ongoing stress also make it easier to believe in conspiracy theories.
Also education and the kind of beliefs we were exposed to in our childhood. For example, if we don’t believe in aliens, it will be hard to believe that some kind of outer space is invading us, or if someone grew up with people who defended a certain theory, it will be easier. (but not determinative) that this belief should be held true.
4. Need for distinction
Another element that can motivate the belief in such theories is, as evidenced by various studies and research carried out by the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, the need for distinction or to feel unique. It is important to note that this need doesn’t have to be a conscious thing.
Research in this regard was carried out through the realization of various scales that measured the importance of being unique and different and the belief in conspiracies and alien control over the behavior and events that we experience. After that, the subjects were exposed to a list of different conspiracy theories to indicate if they believed any of them to be true. In another experiment, such a theory was even created to observe whether it was believed or not and whether or not this was related to the need for differentiation. Even after indicating this fact.
The reflected results indicated that in a large percentage of cases, people who believe in conspiracies or had a mindset that facilitated their belief they had a higher need for distinctiveness and uniqueness. The data obtained from these studies indicate that the need to feel different and unique has an existing effect and is considered significant in belief in conspiracy theories, although it is a effect that occurs at a modest level that does not govern or determine the belief itself. .
It was also observed that the popularity of the theory itself did not affect the majority of participants except those who attributed a large number (reducing their level of belief the more popular it was). In these latter cases, there would be a greater need for attention and different feelings.
- Imhoff, R. and Lamberty, K. (2017). Too special to be deceived: the need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology.
- Swami, V .; Chamorro-Premuzic, T. and Furnham, A. (2009). Unanswered Questions: A Preliminary Investigation into Personality Prediction and Individual Difference from Beliefs in the 9/11 Conspiracy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24 (6): 749-761.
- Van Prooijen, JW; Douglas, KM and De Inocencio, C. (2017). Connect the Dots: The illusory perception of the model predicts belief in conspiracies and the supernatural. European Journal of Social Psychology.