Category Archives: Phobia

The psychology of conspiracy belief

A Professor of psychology from Victoria University sheds some light on the conspiracy theories surrounding illuminati.

By matt stewart via Stuff.co.nz

paranoia 737_201pxYou don’t have to be mad to create conspiracy theories, but it certainly helps, new research suggests.

Just believing in them indicates you are more likely to be paranoid or mentally ill, a Victoria University study shows.

Widely held conspiracy theories range from harmless ones, such as the belief that the Moon landings were faked, to more dangerous delusions such as the one in Nigeria that polio vaccines were a Western plot to sterilise people. That led to vaccination crews being murdered and thousands dying from disease.

Clinical psychologist Darshani Kumareswaran is delving in to the psychology of conspiracy belief, and has found some believers are likely to endorse far-fetched plots in an effort to make sense of chaotic situations beyond their control.

Kumareswaran, who graduated from Victoria with a PhD in psychology this week, wanted to find out what made people more likely to believe in, or come up with, conspiracy theories – and whether the process was linked to mental illness.

Avid conspiracy theorists can put themselves under intense psychological strain with their tendency towards paranoid thinking and delusional beliefs, causing mental strain even when a conspiracy theory turns out to be a verified plot.

paranoid illuminati_250pxShe also looked behind the common public image of the conspiracy theorist as a crackpot.

Despite evidence of verified conspiracies, such as the Watergate scandal, the public viewed conspiracy theorists in as negative a light as they did convicted criminals, she said.

“For the label to be so negatively rated by the public is quite a powerful finding.”

Study participants were asked to recall a situation in which they had no control, describe it in detail, and write it down. They were then put in a “psychological space” in which they felt powerlessness and were given 24 pictures that looked like snowy television screens.

Half featured obscured objects such as a chair or tent, the other half nothing.

Those who scored highly on a form of psychopathology known as schizotypy were more likely to see an object in the images where there was none, indicating they were more likely to make connections between unrelated things.

“I also found that someone who creates conspiracy theories is more likely to have some form of psychopathology, or mental illness such as  .  .  .

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Food Fears

steven_novellaby Steven Novella via Science-Based Medicine

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A new Cornell University study examines the origins of food fears, and possible remedies. It’s a survey of 1,008 mothers asking about foods they avoid and why.

Food fears are a common topic on SBM (Science-Based Medicine), likely for several reasons. Humans have an inherent emotion of disgust, which is likely an adaptation to help avoid contaminated or spoiled food. In our modern society this reflex can be tricky, because we do not always have control over the chain of events that leads to food on our plates. Other people grow the food, transport it, process it, and perhaps even cook it

Modern food technology can also involve many scary sounding substances and unusual processes. As the saying goes, you may not want to know how the sausage is made, as long as the end result is wholesome.

This leads to a second reason for modern food fears – we are living in an age of increasing transparency, partly brought about by the dramatic increase in access to information on the internet. I think ultimately this is a good thing – people are seeing how the sausage is made, which makes it more difficult to hide shady practices. This introduces a new problem, however. If you’re going to inspect the process of making sausage, then you need to know something about sausage-making.

chemicals_185pxIn other words – people are obtaining a great deal of information about food, food ingredients, and manufacturing processes, which is a good thing. However, much of this information is coming from dubious sources – non-professional or academic sources that have not been peer reviewed in any meaningful way and may have ulterior agendas or ideological biases.

Further, it is not easy to understand any complex science, including chemistry and food science, which includes medical studies on ingredient safety. The Food Babe has essentially made a career out of provoking irrational fear of ingredients with unsavory sources and with scary-sounding, long chemical names. Neither of these factors have anything to do with actual food safety, but they make it easy to scare the non-expert.

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Specifically this includes so-called “chemophobia” – which is the fear of chemicals. The problem with this “Food Babe”, chemophobic approach is that everything is chemicals. As the banana graphic above demonstrates, the formal chemical names even for everyday food molecules are long and unfamiliar to non-chemists.

The end result is that many people use shortcuts or heuristics to determine what food they trust and what food to avoid. One heuristic is the “natural” false dichotomy – if something seems natural it is healthful, and if it seems synthetic it should be avoided. This heuristic rapidly breaks down on two main counts. The first is that there is no good operational definition of “natural.” All food is altered by humans or processed in some way. Where do you draw the line? The second is that something occurring in nature is no guarantee of safety. Most things in nature will harm or even kill you. Many plants and animals have evolved toxins specifically to harm anything that tries to eat it.

Another food heuristic (one explicitly endorsed by the Food Babe) is the chemophobia heuristic – if it has a long chemical name that is difficult to pronounce, then it’s scary.

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15 Phreaky Phobias

Are phobias really irrational, or does the brain have a better reason for creating them?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

scared-1_200pxWhat makes a phobia? It’s perfectly rational to prefer not to perch dangerously on the edge of a perilous cliff, and it’s only common sense to avoid the bite of a snake. But some of us take it a step further: experiencing acute symptoms of anxiety when exposed to certain threats, even when we’re actually safe. We can be on a perfectly safe railed walkway that’s high in the air, or the snake can be behind glass, but we still get the full physiological reaction. Fight or flight kicks in; anxiety, increased metabolism. Adrenalin and dopamine. Peripheral vision turns to tunnel vision and the mind becomes clear and focused on escaping the object of your phobia.

Trauma from past events is the main cause of most phobias, but some researchers also believe heredity may play a role (the eternal nature vs. nurture debate). The nurture component triggers a conditioned response to a stimulus. Here are phifteen phreaky phobias and what we know of them:

1. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders

Fear_of_spiders_by_hackamore_200pxWhy is it that even a tiny toddler with no previous spider experience will recoil in terror from a tiny cute little animal that can’t possibly pose any threat? Some have speculated that arachnophobia is an evolutionary adaptation; individuals who lacked the fear were spider-venomed to death more often enough that their genes eventually became expressed less often. Others have pointed out that the actual threat from spiders has never been substantial enough to produce such an effect.

Whatever the cause, arachnophobia is somewhat infamous as the poster child for exposure therapy, the most successful way to treat phobias through desensitization. What arachnophobe would not want to someday be thickly encrusted with Giant Huntsman spiders?

2. Pediophobia: Fear of Dolls

A theory to explain why this phobia exists has to do with the “uncanny valley” — that gap between our comfort with the images of real people, and our comfort with fictional characters sufficiently different from humans. In between, where things like corpses, prosthetic hands, wax figures, and lifelike animated humans are, they’re almost-but-not-quite human and it creeps us out. A picture or drawing of a doll may seem harmless enough, but when a real doll is there in front of you in three dimensions and with physical synthetic eyes and hair and clothes, its evident realism drops it squarely into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is probably also largely responsible for:

3. Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns

clown pennywise 838_225pxIn addition to their uncanniness — appearing essentially as malformed humans — clowns are correlated with behavior that is equally uncanny. Whether they’re hitting each other over the head with giant cartoon hammers or (perhaps even creepier) quietly handing you a balloon or a flower with an overly loving grin, they behave almost-but-not-quite like people: too different, and yet too similar, for comfort.

4. Emetophobia: Fear of Vomiting

Some people just don’t do vomit: really, really don’t do vomit. They can’t think about it, watch it, or even imagine doing it themselves. The leading theory is that emetophobia is a reaction to a traumatic incident as a child, where vomiting may have been especially painful, humiliating, or associated with a strong memory such as a severe illness. As is the case with all phobias, a quick drive of the porcelain bus today wouldn’t be all that bad; but the sufferer has been conditioned to be severely anxious at the very idea.

when_birds_attack_08_225px5. Ornithophobia: Fear of Birds

In many cases we can never pinpoint what event in a sufferer’s life may have triggered their fear of birds, but the effect can be quite dramatic. Birds are everywhere outside; they can fly, they can come at us unexpectedly from any angle. This uncertainty and feeling of imminent attack is sufficient to trigger a state of acute stress response, the formal term for the fight or flight response. It triggers all the metabolic and biochemical reactions, making a life with too many outdoor excursions truly too stressful for an ornithophobe to manage.

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I’m Being Cyber Stalked, Wiretapped and Followed

Via Dr. Phil.com

For the past four years, Matt, 51, claims that he has been stalked, wiretapped and hacked by thousands of people affiliated with a group that he calls "The Organization." Matt says that he believes his stalkers are "cyber geeks" who have nothing better to do with their time and money than toy with people's lives. Hear the evidence Matt says he has collected — and what a private investigator, hired by Dr. Phil, uncovers. Plus, Matt admits to past drug use involving methamphetamines but says that he's been clean for six months. He agrees to both a drug test and a mental evaluation to prove that his claims are valid – what will the results show?

Thirteen Common (But Silly) Superstitions

via Discovery News

THE GIST

  • One study found that superstitions can sometimes work
  • The make a wish on a turkey bone saying dates back to first-century Romans.
  • The word friggatriskaidekaphobics describes those afraid of Friday the 13th.

cat_250pxIf you are spooked by Friday the 13th, you’re in for a whammy of a year. And it would come as no surprise if many among us hold at least some fear of freaky Friday, as we humans are a superstitious lot.

Many superstitions stem from the same human trait that causes us to believe in monsters and ghosts: When our brains can’t explain something, we make stuff up. In fact, a 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work, because believing in something can improve performance on a task.

Here, then, are 13 of the most common superstitions.

13. Beginner’s luck

Usually grumbled by an expert who just lost a game to a novice, “beginner’s luck” is the idea that newbies are unusually likely to win when they try out a sport, game or activity for the first time.

Beginners might come out ahead in some cases because the novice is less stressed out about winning. Too much anxiety, after all, can hamper performance. Or it could just be a statistical fluke, especially in chance-based gambling games.

Or, like many superstitions, a belief in beginner’s luck might arise because of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a psychological phenomenon in which people are more likely to remember events that fit their worldview. If you believe you’re going to win because you’re a beginner, you’re more likely to remember all the times you were right — “and forget the times you ended up in last place.

lucky_penny_for_one-dollar_250px12. Find a penny, pick it up . . .

And all day long, you’ll have good luck. This little ditty may arise because finding money is lucky in and of itself. But it might also be a spin-off of another old rhyme, “See a pin, pick it up/ and all day long you’ll have good luck/ See a pin, let it lay/ and your luck will pass y.”

11. Don’t walk under that ladder!

Frankly, this superstition is pretty practical. Who wants to be responsible for stumbling and knocking a carpenter off his perch? But one theory holds that this superstition arises from a Christian belief in the Holy Trinity: Since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, “breaking” that triangle was blasphemous.

Then again, another popular theory is that a fear of walking under a ladder has to do with its resemblance to a medieval gallows. We’re sticking with the safety-first explanation for this one.

10. Black cats crossing your path

As companion animals for humans for thousands of years, cats play all sorts of mythological roles. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered; today, Americans collectively keep more than 81 million cats as pets.

afterall-rabbit-feet-are-good-luckSo why keep a black cat out of your path? Most likely, this superstition arises from old beliefs in witches and their animal familiars, which were often said to take the form of domestic animals like cats.

9. A rabbit’s foot will bring you luck

Talismans and amulets are a time-honored way of fending off evil; consider the crosses and garlic that are supposed to keep vampires at bay. Rabbit feet as talismans may hark back to early Celtic tribes in Britain. They may also arise from hoodoo, a form of African-American folk magic and superstition that blends Native American, European and African tradition. [Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology]

8. Bad luck comes in threes

Remember confirmation bias? The belief that bad luck comes in threes is a classic example. A couple things go wrong, and believers may start to look for the next bit of bad luck. A lost shoe might be forgotten one day, but seen as the third in a series of bad breaks the next.

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How reality caught up with paranoid delusions

Not quite related to conspiracies, but i’m fascinated by the brain and all its foibles. For this reason i enjoyed this piece a lot. I hope you do too.

🙂

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)


Schizophrenics used to see demons and spirits. Now they talk about actors and hidden cameras – and make a lot of sense

by via Aeon Magazine

psychiatrist_300pxClinical psychiatry papers rarely make much of a splash in the wider media, but it seems appropriate that a paper entitled ‘The Truman Show Delusion: Psychosis in the Global Village’, published in the May 2012 issue of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, should have caused a global sensation. Its authors, the brothers Joel and Ian Gold, presented a striking series of cases in which individuals had become convinced that they were secretly being filmed for a reality TV show.

In one case, the subject travelled to New York, demanding to see the ‘director’ of the film of his life, and wishing to check whether the World Trade Centre had been destroyed in reality or merely in the movie that was being assembled for his benefit. In another, a journalist who had been hospitalised during a manic episode became convinced that the medical scenario was fake and that he would be awarded a prize for covering the story once the truth was revealed. Another subject was actually working on a reality TV series but came to believe that his fellow crew members were secretly filming him, and was constantly expecting the This-Is-Your-Life moment when the cameras would flip and reveal that he was the true star of the show.

schizophrenia 932_200pxFew commentators were able to resist the idea that these cases — all diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and treated with antipsychotic medication — were in some sense the tip of the iceberg, exposing a pathology in our culture as a whole. They were taken as extreme examples of a wider modern malaise: an obsession with celebrity turning us all into narcissistic stars of our own lives, or a media-saturated culture warping our sense of reality and blurring the line between fact and fiction. They seemed to capture the zeitgeist perfectly: cautionary tales for an age in which our experience of reality is manicured and customised in subtle and insidious ways, and everything from our junk mail to our online searches discreetly encourages us in the assumption that we are the centre of the universe.

Truman-Show-delusion_300pxBut part of the reason that the Truman Show delusion seems so uncannily in tune with the times is that Hollywood blockbusters now regularly present narratives that, until recently, were confined to psychiatrists’ case notes and the clinical literature on paranoid psychosis. Popular culture hums with stories about technology that secretly observes and controls our thoughts, or in which reality is simulated with virtual constructs or implanted memories, and where the truth can be glimpsed only in distorted dream sequences or chance moments when the mask slips. A couple of decades ago, such beliefs would mark out fictional characters as crazy, more often than not homicidal maniacs. Today, they are more likely to identify a protagonist who, like Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank, genuinely has stumbled onto a carefully orchestrated secret of which those around him are blandly unaware. These stories obviously resonate with our technology-saturated modernity. What’s less clear is why they so readily adopt a perspective that was, until recently, a hallmark of radical estrangement from reality. Does this suggest that media technologies are making us all paranoid? Or that paranoid delusions suddenly make more sense than they used to?

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Why do people lie about their belief in a Conspiracy Theory?

Part 1: Fear

by via The Soap Box

paranoid1134_200px_200pxWhy do some people continue to express belief in a conspiracy theory when they actually no longer believe in that conspiracy theory?

Yes, as hard as it might sound to some people, their are people out there that do in fact lie about their beliefs in a conspiracy theory, and there are actually several different reason why someone does this, but one of the main reasons why someone does this is fear.

In fact not only is fear a major reason why someone would claim to believe in a conspiracy theory that they no longer believe in, there are actually several different reasons (or excuses) for that fear.

What if?

what-if_200pxProbably one of the most common reasons why a person says they believe in a conspiracy theory, even when they do not actually believe in it is the question of “what if?” as in “what if I’m wrong?”

The fear of being wrong about something is often times one of the biggest reasons why someone claims to believe in something when in their minds they actually don’t (or at least question themselves) because they think it might save them in some ways if they turn out to be wrong and it actually is true…

They don’t want to look stupid.

fork decision_200pxFor some people whom believe in a conspiracy theory, but have since stopped believing but continue to claim to believe in a conspiracy theory, they may be continuing to claim they believe in a conspiracy theory due to the fact that they, in a way, would be admitting that they were being stupid, and maybe in their egotistical minds, would look stupid in the process.

Because of this fear, combined with their own ego, it can cause a person to continue saying that they believe in a long after they actually stopped believing in a conspiracy theory, and can cause them to continue to try to prove a conspiracy theory that they no longer believe in is real to other people.

They can also be very sensitive as well and blow up when someone questions their claims, or intelligence, or sanity.

They’re afraid losing relationships.

Some people might claim to believe in a conspiracy theory not because genuinely believe in it, but because someone they are close to, or a group of people they are close to, believes in that conspiracy theory.

relationshipThis relationship could be with a family member they are close to, or their entire family, and they’re afraid that if they speak out and say that they do not believe in the conspiracy theory that the family member (or members) believes in, or do not even express any of the same beliefs in said conspiracy theory, they may lose what relationship they have with that family member, or their family.

The relationship lose might not come from a family member either. It could be a fear of a lose of friends.

Lets say a person has a friend, or a group of friends, who believe in a conspiracy theory. Or, maybe they even joined an organization that promotes a certain conspiracy theory, and they made friends with some of the people in that organization. Some people might continue to claim they believe in that conspiracy theory long after they stopped believing in it simply because they don’t want to lose their friends.

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10 More Extremely Bizarre Phobias

By Jamie Frater via Listverse

We probably all suffer from a minor phobia or two, but some people’s lives are virtually debilitated by their fears. This list looks at ten more of the most unusual phobias that afflict people in modern days. If you suffer from any of these phobias, be sure to tell us about it in the comments. For those interested, here is the previous list of bizarre phobias.

10 • Agyrophobia – Fear of Crossing the Street

6a00d834517e6e69e200e54f1bb1738834-800wi-tm_250pxAgyrophobics have a fear of crossing streets, highways and other thoroughfares, or a fear of thoroughfares themselves. This, of course, makes it very difficult to live comfortably in a city. The word comes from the Greek gyrus which means turning or whirling as the phobic avoids the whirl of traffic. The phobia covers several categories, wherein sufferers may fear wide roads specifically down to suburban single lane streets, and can also include fearing jaywalking or crossing anywhere on a street, even a designated intersection. This phobia is considered independent from the fear of cars.

9 • Mageirocophobia – Fear of Cooking

119171631-fddf27ecde-tm_250px_250pxThe bizarre fear of cooking is called mageirocophobia which comes from the Greek word mageirokos which means a person skilled in cooking. This disorder can be debilitating and potentially lead to unhealthy eating if one lives alone. Sufferers of mageirokos can feel extremely intimidated by people with skills in cooking, and this intimidation and feeling of inadequacy is probably the root cause of the disorder for many. If you suffer from mageirokos and wish to develop some basic skills in cooking, check out our Top 10 Tips for Great Home Cooking and Top 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cooking.

8 • Pediophobia – Fear of Dolls

abroken_china_doll_by_rebel_sta_by_-tm_200pxPediophobia is the irrational fear of dolls. Not just scary dolls – ALL dolls. Strictly speaking, the fear is a horror of a “false representation of sentient beings” so it also usually includes robots and mannequins, which can make it decidedly difficult to go shopping. This phobia should not be confused with pedophobia or pediaphobia which is the fear of children. Sigmund Freud believed the disorder may spring from a fear of the doll coming to life and roboticist Masahiro Mori expanded on that theory by stating that the more human-like something becomes, the more repellent its non-human aspects appear. My apologies to those who suffer from pediophobia for the picture above.

7 • Deipnophobia – Fear of Dinner Conversation

awkward-dinner-party-tm_250px_250px_250pxNow admittedly some dinner conversations can be very awkward, but some people are so terrified of the idea of speaking to another person over dinner that they avoid dining out situations. In times gone by there were strict rules of etiquette that helped a person to deal with these situations – but they are (sadly) mostly forgotten. In today’s society in which rules and formality are out the window, it is possible that the more controlled nature of a dinner party may lie partly behind this phobia. For those amongst us who are interested in some tips for coping with fine dining, read our Top 10 Tips for Fine Dining (number eight is specifically about dinner conversation).

6 • Eisoptrophobia – Fear of Mirrors

intoyoureyesbyenayla3dl-tm_250pxEisoptrophobia is a fear of mirrors in the broad sense, or more specifically the fear of being put into contact with the spiritual world through a mirror. Sufferers experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. Because their fear often is grounded in superstitions, they may worry that breaking a mirror will bring bad luck or that looking into a mirror will put them in contact with a supernatural world inside the glass. After writing this list I realized that I suffer from a minor form of this disorder in that I don’t like to look into a mirror in the evening when I am alone for fear of seeing someone (or something) behind me.

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