Psychologists are trying to determine why otherwise rational individuals can make the leap from “prudent paranoia” to illogical conspiracy theories
According to a Public Policy Polling survey, around 12 million people in the US believe that interstellar lizards in people suits rule our country. We imported that particular belief from across the pond, where professional conspiracy theorist David Icke has long maintained that the Queen of England is a blood-drinking, shape-shifting alien.
Conspiracy theories in general are not necessary bad, according to psychologists who study them. “If we were all completely trusting, it would not be good for survival,” explains Rob Brotherton, an academic psychologist and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. “Sometimes people really don’t have our best interests in mind.”
But when people leap from thinking their boss is trying to undermine them to believing their boss might be a secret lizard person, they probably cross from what psychologists refer to as “prudent paranoia” into illogical territory.
And there are a lot of illogical ideas to pick from. Around 66 million Americans believe that aliens landed at Roswell, New Mexico; around 22 million people believe that the government faked the moon landing; and around 160 million believe that there is a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of former US president John F Kennedy.
While aliens and fake moon landings probably trigger eyerolls in many of us, defining what constitutes a conspiracy theory is difficult, Brotherton says. The government, for example, does sometimes conspire to do the unspeakable, such as the infamous 1930s Tuskegee study, initiated by the US government to examine untreated syphilis in African-American men. Researchers blocked research participants from receiving penicillin or exiting the experiment to get treatment. The study continued until a media report made it public. In this case, believing that the government was conspiring to keep people sick would have been completely accurate.
There are characteristics that help differentiate a conspiracy theory from prudent paranoia, Brotherton says. Conspiracy theories tend to depend on conspirators who are unduly evil, he explains, with genocide or world domination as a motive. Conspiracy theories also tend to assign an usually high level of competency to the conspirators, Brotherton adds, pointing out that when the government really does “shady stuff” it often isn’t able to keep it secret.
Chances are, we all know someone who believes some version of a conspiracy theory, which is why psychologists have been trying to understand what makes someone jump from logically questioning the world to looking for signs of lizard teeth in public figures. Research has shown that feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty are associated with a tendency to believe in conspiracies, says Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent in the UK. Or as Joseph E Uscinski, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and author of American Conspiracy Theories, puts it, “conspiracies are for losers”.
On Tuesday, the political fate of America was once again put to a vote. But for the millions of Americans who believe in lizard people, this vote had bigger implications — like thwarting an ongoing plot of world domination.
The idea of shape-shifting lizards taking human forms in a plot to rule America and the world has become one of the most majestic and marvelous conspiracy theories created by mankind (or lizardkind, if you will). In 2008, “lizard people” found its way onto the Minnesota’s midterm ballot with some controversy.
As pundits extrapolate on what the Republican win in the midterms means for the country, there are people around this country who hope their votes did something crucial — kept the country safe from lizard people for the next few years.
Here is a brief guide to this world of lizard people true believers.
What is a lizard person?
It’s just what it sounds like.
Lizard people are cold-blooded humanoid reptilians who have the power to shape-shift into human form. According to David Icke, a new-age philosopher and one of the most prominent theorists in the lizard people game, these creatures have had their claws in humankind since ancient time, and world leaders like Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, the Clintons, and Bob Hope are all lizard people.
“Encroaching on other conspiracy theorists’ territory, Icke even claims that the lizards are behind secret societies like the Freemasons and the Illuminati,” Time reported.
Icke’s 1998 book, The Biggest Secret, is considered an important tome in lizard people theory.
Wait. People actually believe in this stuff?
How many Americans believe in lizard people?
Back in April of 2013, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll about conspiracy theories like aliens, an impostor Paul McCartney, and, of course, lizard people. And the polling organization found that 4 percent of Americans believe in lizard people, while another 7 percent were unsure. Taken to its absurd extreme, that would imply around 12 million Americans, Philip Bump, a lizard person scholar and writer at the Washington Post, found. (Public Policy Polling is a serious outlet, but it’s also known for some trolly polls, so these results have to be taken with a grain of salt.)
Keep in mind that this might not be counting all the people who, in their heart of hearts, believe that lizard people exist but are nervous that they will be found out if they publicly disclose their beliefs.
How do those who believe in lizard people know when someone is a lizard person?
There are many differing theories. If you look at the forums on Icke’s site, there are numerous posts either telling people how to spot lizard people or asking how to pick a lizard person out from the crowd.
Bump, one of the top lizard person journalists in the field, made a handy guide last year that culled lizard-person identifiers. Here’s the list of lizard person tells: