History has shown any cataclysmic event in the world has resulted in not just grief and shock among the masses but a host of conspiracy theories also.
From the assassination of former U.S. President John F Kennedy to the death of Princess Diana, a member of British royal family; from the world-changing collapse of the twin towers in New York to the baffling disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, people have never shied away from putting their own spin on the details of an event when the reasons from the authorities concerned have failed to satisfy them.
Some conspiracy theories have been simply outrageous, while others have offered a kernel of truth. But there’s no denying the fact that conspiracy theories strongly influence the outlook of a certain section of people. Now the question is why do people give in to these conspiracy theories?
A study published in the journal Social Psychology in July tries to answer this question by suggesting that the need to be special and unique drives the people to believe in conspiracy theories.
More than 1,000 people took part in the study titled “I know things they don’t know!” that was co-authored by Anthony Lantian, Dominique Muller, Cécile Nurra, and Karen M. Douglas of Grenoble Alps University. “An intriguing feature in the rhetoric of people who believe in conspiracy theories is that to justify their beliefs, they frequently refer to secret or difficult-to-get information they would have found,” Lantian was quoted as saying by psychology news website Psypost in a report published in August.
“This fascination for what is hidden, emerging from conspiracy narratives, led us to the concept of need for uniqueness,” he added.
The researchers found evidence to support three main tenets of their hypothesis:
Via The Soap Box
A few days ago I came across an article that had been published on PressTV (which is owned by the government of Iran) that was titled “New studies: ‘Conspiracy theorists’ sane; government dupes crazy, hostile“.
The title alone made it quite clear that the article was one sided, and that it is also quite clear what the writer of the article thinks about skeptics and debunkers… and anyone else who believes the reality that the U.S. government did not stage the worst terrorist attack in history.
Let me share with you the first couple of paragraphs of this article:
- The most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” the study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites.The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: “Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.” In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.
I can tell just by reading this that what this article is claiming is very flawed.
For one thing it’s assuming that the majority of people making comments on an internet news article reflects the views of the majority of the people. Even on non-conspiracy theory subjects where the majority of people posting comments may seem like the overall majority, in reality they are just being the more vocal of the two groups.
The seconded problem is this “coded comments” thing. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the people who did this study read comments individually and were able to establish their content and context? Because of the way it was worded it doesn’t sound like it to me. It makes it sound like the people who did the study actually let a computer search for certain words and phrases that are commonly used among conspiracy theorists and skeptics, which is a highly flawed way to research something like this because computers can’t understand context like humans can.
This of course isn’t the only thing this article claims. It also claims . . .
• 7/21/13 UPDATE – Also see: Setting the record straight on Wood & Douglas, 2013 | The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories
- Not all Conspiracy Theorists are Conspiracy Theorists (illuminutti.com)
- New Studies: Conspiracy Theorists Sane; Government Dupes Crazy, Hostile (armageddononline.org)