A scientific look at the conspiracy-minded

Why do people believe the most ridiculous conspiracy theories?

You know, theories like “it’s too hard for the government to manage wild salmon so they are letting salmon farms kill off wild fish because in the end managing salmon farms is easier.”

Well, it turns out that people who are most willing to believe in nefarious conspiracies are most likely themselves to engage in nefarious conspiracies.

‘We wanted to test a new explanation of why conspiracy theories are endorsed in an internet age when people have access to a matrix of often conflicting information from a variety of sources,’ said Dr [Karen M.] Douglas.

‘We found that in their search for explanations under such uncertain and confusing conditions, people rely partly on projection — the assumption that others would behave much as they would.

‘We’re not saying however that all conspiracy theorists are immoral or that they have arrived at their beliefs through projection. It’s important to note that other factors may lead people to believe in conspiracy theories. Also, our research says nothing about the truth or objective plausibility of such theories. However what we have shown is that one reason some people endorse conspiracy theories is because is they project their own moral tendencies onto the supposed conspirators‘, she said.

Interesting stuff. And when we see some of the furtive and conspiratorial behaviour from anti-salmon farming activists (e.g. making scientific claims withouth publishing data; accusing anyone who disagrees of lying; manipulating people through ‘groupthink,’ blatantly ignoring facts which contradict their opinions) it kind of makes sense.


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