Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Autumn Rain

Well-known Member
I asked this question elsewhere a while back but I would like to ask it again here, as I'm interested in hearing some further thoughts on this.

I'm not looking for a debate on any particular conspiracy theory (I'm sure there are other threads for that). I'm more interested in the psychology of conspiracy theories and what makes people believe in them. Take the Covid deniers and flat earthers as a more "out there" example. No rational person could give those ideas any credence but it seems plenty of people do (and I'm not convinced they are all WUMs as is so often suggested). Some CTs are less bonkers like those about the moon landings, but I've yet to hear a particularly convincing one.

The flat earth one in particular is very odd because there's just no logical reason why TPTB would want to hide such a thing from us, when it would make no difference to our day to day lives. Not to mention all the contradicting evidence and logistical problems with pulling off such a massive conspiracy.

I don't suppose there is a clear cut answer as to why people get suckered into CTs because, like many things, there will be a number of reasons and each case is different. Mental illness and learning difficulties are a possible factor in some cases but by no means all. Many CTists are actually intelligent people and not at all like the stereotype (not that it's an either-or situation, but it would be a generalisation to say all CTists are mentally unstable or affected by learning difficulties). I also think some people get a thrill from believing that they know something the rest of us don't, perhaps it's a need to feel superior. Another possible reason is that people like to be a part of something and maybe joining in with conspiracy groups and being around like-minded people fulfills that desire for them.

Perhaps you believe in some conspiracy theories yourself or used to. What makes/made you believe in them? I would be interested to hear what CTs you believe in and why you believe them.
 
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aVdub

Distinguished Member
Not a believer myself but the word American & Conspiracy theory is one that springs to mind that = Bullsh*t.
 

Maeght

Well-known Member
I asked this question elsewhere a while back but I would like to ask it again here, as I'm interested in hearing some further thoughts on this.

I'm not looking for a debate on any particular conspiracy theory (I'm sure there are other threads for that). I'm more interested in the psychology of conspiracy theories and what makes people believe in them. Take the Covid deniers and flat earthers as a more "out there" example. No rational person could give those ideas any credence but it seems plenty of people do (and I'm not convinced they are all WUMs as is so often suggested). Some CTs are less bonkers like those about the moon landings, but I've yet to hear a particularly convincing one.

The flat earth one in particular is very odd because there's just no logical reason why TPTB would want to hide such a thing from us, when it would make no difference to our day to day lives. Not to mention all the contradicting evidence and logistical problems with pulling off such a massive conspiracy.

I don't suppose there is a clear cut answer as to why people get suckered into CTs because, like many things, there will be a number of reasons and each case is different. I strongly suspect mental illness and learning difficulties are a factor. I also think some people get a thrill from believing that they know something the rest of us don't, perhaps it's a need to feel superior. Another possible reason is that people like to be a part of something and maybe joining in with conspiracy groups and being around like-minded people fulfills that desire for them.

Perhaps you believe in some conspiracy theories yourself or used to. What makes/made you believe in them? I would be interested to hear what CTs you believe in and why you believe them.
Speaking of Psychology: Why people believe in conspiracy theories, with Karen Douglas, PhD
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
People with too much time on their hands.
 

Xenomorph

Member
I just do not get the flat earthers. 🤪 I think that is more of a cult following thing, and a sense of belonging to something. A bit like religion.
 

Autumn Rain

Well-known Member
People with too much time on their hands.
With the lockdowns and the furlough/working from home schemes, a lot of people have had a lot more time on their hands these last 18 months. That would explain why Covid CTs have gained so much traction.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
I doubt most CT nuts work tbh....governments are evil and currency is from the rule of the devil jews etc etc
 

Let me guess

Well-known Member
I think for many it's literally a hobby...real life mysteries....I don't necessarily agree with mental health and learning disabilities being a factor...gullibility perhaps but plenty of these people seem very intelligent, whilst also seemingly having a blind spot in some areas....tbh I find it a bit insulting to people with MH problems or Learning difficulties...although I'm sure that wasn't your intent. :)
 

nvingo

Distinguished Member
Back when Windows95/the internet/Google were new, people who said 'they're spying on our every online activity to profile us' were considered conspiracy theorists. They were fundamentally correct though.
 

damo09

Well-known Member
Completely disagree with the flat earth earthers (utter crap)

but was 911 an inside job??? 100000000% yes.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
oh dear.

Must resist.
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
So, you're expecting a reply from a CT who you labeled mentally ill with a learning difficulty...

Yeah, good luck with that....
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
Back when Windows95/the internet/Google were new, people who said 'they're spying on our every online activity to profile us' were considered conspiracy theorists. They were fundamentally correct though.

Funnily enough inspired by our Covid section I watched 1984 the other night.

Tech is an interesting one. I've seen people who warn about the dangers of AI being called crackpots.

I wonder....
 

silent ninja

Well-known Member
Firstly, you haven't defined what a conspiracy theorist is. For example, it's often used to dismiss legitimate concerns, cancel or silence people. Would you class those people calling bankers and politicians corrupt thieves for decades, conspiracy theorists? The evidence seems to support their theories. What about those claiming elections are rigged? Well the Cambridge analytica case certainly didn't help dissuade them and we know Facebook has a significant sway on who wins elections, no democracy.

You'd need to define the line between a conspiracy and what deserves debate and scrutiny.

It's actually very easy to see why there are so many anti vaxxers. Pharmaceutical companies have a horrific criminal record - Pfizer, Astrazenica, Johnson &Johnson. Google how many times they've lost in court and how they tried to conceal criminal activity, but they made more money than they lost. To many, they are beyond reproach and the fact that prominent leaders actually own a stake in these companies (corruption, lobbying too) doesn't build confidence. The fact Bill Gates (the face of vaccination to many) has a terrible track record in India and was virtually kicked out. The AZ faulty (partial) data stuff didn't help. The lack of seeking or sharing alternative treatments for Covid didn't help. The fact we don't have an effective system that captures adverse effects to the vaccine - as with all medicines the system for reporting adverse effects is terrible, doctors don't report issues with meds and nobody really cares. The fact NHS staff and doctors had very low uptake of vaccine etc the list goes on.

So rather than tackle these, I guess calling these people anti vaxxers (I'm sure many have taken all their vaccines in the past) is much easier for the media and politicians.

I think it's worse in recent times because people have lost trust in government. You see that in Western countries, far right politics and populism. Government protect their friends and investments, people don't trust their word anymore. it's a hangover of the financial crash. Who would trust Boris and his ilk? I don't blame them. Social media is accelerating this.
 
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KorbenDallas

Standard Member
When I have engaged with CTs in the past I have found the generally have the inability to discern between the known/unknown, possible/impossible/unlikely, and logical matters of degree. Some of these people are very intelligent but with these deficiencies in their logical faculties they seemed susceptible to conspiracy theories. But I wouldn't base an analysis of why people believe in CTs purely on reason or rationality, psychological factors like OCD (to whatever degree) can come into play. Degrees of paranoia someone is prone to. Like the previous poster stated degrees of trust in institutions. Someone else mentioned problems with authority. Someone else mentioned cult following. So I think there can be underlying factors that can contribute to someone's susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and when you factor in someone's life experiences it can be quite a mess to determine why person A accepts conspiracy theories A-Z.
 

Ruffuz

Well-known Member
Funnily enough inspired by our Covid section I watched 1984 the other night.

Tech is an interesting one. I've seen people who warn about the dangers of AI being called crackpots.

I wonder....

But what Orwell failed to predict is that we'd buy the camera ourselves, and that our biggest fear is that nobody is watching!
 

Johnmcl7

Distinguished Member
The flat earth one in particular is very odd because there's just no logical reason why TPTB would want to hide such a thing from us, when it would make no difference to our day to day lives. Not to mention all the contradicting evidence and logistical problems with pulling off such a massive conspiracy.
This is something that's puzzled me as well and I've watched a number of videos about flat earth to try and understand the mindset behind it but I think it largely stems from don't believe what you're told no matter how strange the alternative is. The other side of it seems to be believing what you can see with your own eyes rather than the actual science.

If you're interested yourself I'd recommend SciManDan on Youtube and also does a good podcast series.

Around 20 years ago I was more open to conspiracy theories in the early days of video streaming there were convincing presentations on conspiracy theories and the rebuttals were often weak and nowhere near as convincing. Since then though I think the rebuttals are just as good if not better and no longer believe any conspiracy theories and more sceptical than I used to be. I remember starting to doubt the moon landing but on seeing the likes of Mythbusters explaining each aspect extremely well, I feel a bit silly for doubting it now.
 

Autumn Rain

Well-known Member
I think for many it's literally a hobby...real life mysteries....I don't necessarily agree with mental health and learning disabilities being a factor...gullibility perhaps but plenty of these people seem very intelligent, whilst also seemingly having a blind spot in some areas....tbh I find it a bit insulting to people with MH problems or Learning difficulties...although I'm sure that wasn't your intent. :)
It wasn't, I have mental health issues myself as well as ASD and dyspraxia. I also wasn't implying that all people who believe in conspiracy theories will have a mental illness or learning difficulties, but those things could make a person more susceptible to being suckered in. That's all I was saying.
 

Autumn Rain

Well-known Member
Firstly, you haven't defined what a conspiracy theorist is.
I'm leaving it open to interpretation, but the types I had in mind were those who are absolutely convinced that Covid vaccinations contain tracking chips or that the World Trade Center was brought down by controlled demolition (or other such bunkum).

There's absolutely nothing wrong with questioning something but some people go beyond that and only see what fits in with their own narrative, regardless of the evidence against it and any logical flaws with said narrative.
 

RebelScum

Well-known Member
It’s some people‘s way of creating an illusion of control. Just one of the ways humans externalise fears and insecurities. It’s a bit of a shame that in the more extreme cases these people don’t apply equal scrutiny to their own lives or spend the same amount of energy tackling head on the things they are avoiding and feel they have no control over.
 
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Aristaeus

Well-known Member
Completely disagree with the flat earth earthers (utter crap)

but was 911 an inside job??? 100000000% yes.

Good lord. What exactly was their motive? It's not like America needs something like that as an excuse to go to war.
 

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