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:
Some say the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was actually a murder plotted by her government:
- Why didn’t any security cameras record what happened in the tunnel?
- Why was Diana’s body quickly embalmed?
- Why weren’t Diana’s security forces there to protect her?
- What about the white Fiat Uno?
It was perhaps a certainty that the most famous royal celebrity death of the twentieth century would attract conspiracy theories, so it’s not surprising that that’s exactly what happened when Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car accident in 1997. She’d been divorced from Charles, Prince of Wales for about a year, and she and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed were in Paris. The story of that evening had all the elements of an international caper: money, royalty, luxury, celebrity, sex, drugs, and death. How could this calamity, at once a small family tragedy and the greatest show on the worldwide stage, have not attracted attention of every kind: sadness, anger, outrage, and charges of crime and conspiracy?
Diana and Dodi had just spent nine days aboard the Al-Fayed family’s enormous motoryacht, the Sonikal, off the French and Italian Riviera. They stopped to overnight in Paris at the Ritz Hotel, owned by Dodi’s billionaire father Mohamed Al-Fayed. After midnight, they left the hotel and headed to an apartment that he also owned, a short drive away. They were in the back seat of a Mercedes S-Class sedan driven by Henri Paul, the hotel’s deputy head of security. Paul was drunk and on anti-depressants. In the front passenger seat was Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi’s bodyguard. None of them were wearing seatbelts. As so often happens to members of the royal family, they were pursued by a number of paparazzi photographers in other cars. Paul drove faster to try and get away from the paparazzi. Just before the Mercedes started down the ramp into an underpass tunnel, Paul swerved slightly to avoid a slower car, but grazed it. He then began to fishtail, at which point he effectively lost control of the Mercedes. Once inside the tunnel, going about 100 kph, the car slammed into a vertical pillar head on. It spun and struck the wall, facing backward. Half a dozen paparazzi were on the scene and remained until authorities arrived four minutes later. Seven of them were arrested. It was 12:30 in the morning.
Paul and Dodi died on impact. Trevor Rees-Jones suffered severe facial and head injuries, ultimately recovering but with no memory of the accident. Diana was fatally injured and died some three and a half hours later at the hospital. Six months later, Mohamed Al-Fayed claimed his son and Diana had been murdered by British intelligence. Why? Because the Al-Fayed family was Muslim, Diana and Dodi had been secretly engaged, and the British could not bear the royal blood to be so tainted. Three years later Mohamed added that the couple had revealed only to him that Diana had even been pregnant with Dodi’s child. Specifically, Mohamed charged that MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, conceived, choreographed, and executed the car crash to murder the pair.
This 56 page document is published by The British Psychological Society and i’ve just begun reading it, so i can’t yet say whether i love it or hate it. But so far i’m liking what i see. It appears to be written in sections – some of which i’ll be skipping – but there looks to be enough great stuff in here to make it worth downloading.
I’m posting an excerpt below for you to read to help you decide whether this is something you might want to peruse.
Have fun. Feel free to provide feedback in the comments section. 🙂
The PDF can be downloaded here and at the links below.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
Special issue: The psychology of conspiracy theories
PRINCESS DIANA was murdered by the British Secret Service because she was pregnant with Dodi Fayed’s baby. The government is adding fluoride to our drinking water in an attempt to weaken the population. Barak Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim and thus ineligible for the Office of the President of the United States.
All of these statements have appeared at some point or other in popular media, debated by politicians, challenged and denied by government departments, and propagated heavily over the internet. A quarter of the UK population believe Diana was assassinated (YouGov, 2012); similarly 25 per cent of Americans think Obama was not born in the US (CBS News/New York Times, 2011). But these statements are not true.
They are examples of a cultural shift in the popularity of the ‘conspiracy theory’; alternative narratives of a world overshadowed by malevolent groups hell-bent on the destruction of civil liberties, freedom and democracy. They suggest that governments, secret religious groups, scientists or private industry (often many of these combined) are responsible for either causing or covering up significant major world events for their own criminal ends.
What is a ‘conspiracy theory’?
Broadly, psychologists feel that conspiracy theories are worth studying because they demonstrate a particular sub-culture of often heavily political activism that is at odds with the mainstream view. Conspiracy theories are unsubstantiated, less plausible alternatives to the mainstream explanation of an event; they assume everything is intended, with malignity. Crucially, they are also epistemically selfinsulating in their construction and arguments.
What insight does psychology offer?
Belief systems, cognitive biases and individual differences
But what in particular is it about conspiracy believers that are interesting from a psychological perspective? We find these theories and those who believe them incredibly resilient to counter-argument, driven by an often fanatical belief in their version of the truth, coupled with a heavy political overtone in that their opinions need to be heard. We see an interesting combination of cognitive biases, personality traits and other psychological mechanisms at play in the formation, propagation and belief in conspiracies.
Read more – Download the PDF File
- Conspiracy theories: Why we believe the unbelievable (illuminutti.com)
- When Noam Chomsky says that’s an idiotic idea, he’s probably right (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality (lunaticoutpost.com)
- The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories (schneier.com)