Why are humans so susceptible to conspiracy theories

Why are humans so susceptible to conspiracy theories

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QAnon’s faithful insisted that Donald Trump saved the US from a shadow state that combines powerful, satanic rites and sex trafficking networks. (REUTERS / Carlo Allegri)

While the conspiracy theories they have a long history, 2020 he left one of the best harvests. And one of the most appreciated by the population, strikingly.

Proliferous QAnonwhose supporters insisted that the outgoing president of the America, Donald Trump, was saving the nation from a shadow state combining a global sex trafficking ring with satanic rituals in which minors were abused.

He coronavirus gave for everything: the outbreak was intentional; the virus was created in a lab and got away; the pandemic was due to red 5G; the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine it was the way Bill Gates I would implant a microchip to each person to control it; he COVID-19 it was a flu.

And finally the grand finale on him alleged electoral fraud with which Trump’s reelection was stolen, which could have been one of the factors assault on Capitol January 6, 2021.

As far-fetched as it all sounds together, with the months and at the rate of their different logics, these conspiracy theories reached many americans, explained John Ehrenreich, professor of psychology at the State University of New York (SUNY, en Old Westbury). “They are not strange beliefs, confined to a group of crazy people”, wrote in Slate. “Almost 4 in 10 Americans believe that the death rate from COVID-19 has been ‘deliberately and greatly exaggerated’, Meanwhile he 27% think that vaccines may be used to implant tracking chips”.

Many conspiracy theories of 2020 pointed to the coronavirus: that the outbreak was intentional and that the pandemic was due to the 5G network, among others. (REUTERS / John Sibley)

Many conspiracy theories of 2020 pointed to the coronavirus: that the outbreak was intentional and that the pandemic was due to the 5G network, among others.

He added other equally disturbing numbers: 1 in 3 Republicans believes that the conspiracy of the elites with which he crushed QAnon is “mostly true” and 36% of registered voters think there was electoral fraud to a sufficient extent to affect the outcome of the presidential elections.

“Conspiracy theories arise in a context of fear, anxiety, distrust, uncertainty, and feelings of helplessness“, Framed the author of Third Wave Capitalism (Capitalism of the third wave). “For many Americans, recent years have brought many sources of those emotions. Has been job insecurity, wages stagnated, social mobility thwarted. Some feel that technological advances and social progress – broader perspectives of sexuality, racial unrest – are destabilizing. So 2020 brought a pandemic singular and deep recession economic ”.

These separate reasons would make many people perceive that reality is out of control; several of them together only aggravate that feeling of fear and uncertainty. In that context, an rstatement that explains their feelings and gives them understanding and roots in a community sounds like great relief.

Ehrenreich dismissed the “ignorant” or “stupid” labels that are often attached to people who succumb to conspiracy theories. It is true that the lower the educational level, the more belief, but 24% of university graduates and 15% of postgraduates they also believe that it is “likely” or “definitely true” that the powerful of the world planned the coronavirus outbreak.

In a context of fear, anxiety, mistrust, lack of certainty and feelings of helplessness, a story that explains those feelings and allows roots in a community sounds a great relief. (REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton)

In a context of fear, anxiety, mistrust, lack of certainty and feelings of helplessness, a story that explains those feelings and allows roots in a community sounds a great relief. (REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton)

Something similar happens with politics, he observed: while conservatives tend to be more vulnerable to conspiracy ideology than liberals, already in the 2012 election the 15% of Democratic voters believed that “a secret elite of powerful with a global agenda conspires to rule the world through an international authoritarian authority ”. (In the case of Republican voters, 34% believed it.) The phenomenon is usually observed in the extremes: those who are furthest to the left among liberals and those who are furthest to the right among conservatives.

Another fact Ehrenreich highlighted is that this is not a particularly American phenomenon: “Recent examples of widespread conspiratorial thinking have been recorded in Canada, Great Britain, Austria, Italy, Malaysia, Brazil and Nigeria”, He specified.

On a personal level, people who believe in these theories tend to have “high levels of anxiety independent of an external source of stress, a large need to control the environment and one low tolerance for ambiguity”, The specialist listed. “They tend to negative attitudes to authority, to feel away from the political system already see the modern world as something incomprehensible”. Many times they are suspicious and distrustful. They also have problems with anger, resentment or fear. Some may feel a strong desire to feel unique or special, or an exaggerated need to belong to a exclusive group. Finally, this world view is associated with belief in paranormal phenomena, religious faith, and skepticism of science.

The 21st century began with strong conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11, 2001. (AP)

The 21st century began with strong conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11, 2001. (AP)

But a person can have these characteristics and, nevertheless, not adhere to conspiracy theories: for him to do so, it is necessary that this “satisfy psychological and ideological needs”Ehrenreich added. The strength of the belief lies in that “they are not only alternative interpretations of facts but are rooted in conscious or unconscious desires”.

Those desires may arise from the need to “protect or strengthen one’s political perspective ”or“ one’s own idea of ​​self ”. Because anxiety, fear and mistrust generate other difficult emotions – shame, resentment, jealousy, anger, guilt– that many times an effort is made to ignore, and to deal with them they are made projections in others.

“Our brains tend to what social psychologists call the correspondence bias: we usually explain our own negative emotions and actions as a result of situations or events beyond our control rather than as reflections of inner dynamics and attributes, while we attribute the behavior of others mainly to internal factors like personality, character or intentions, ”explained the SUNY professor.

As for conspiracy theories, that applies like this: “It’s easier blaming our anxiety on the evil actions of others than confronting our own fears and worries. Thus, the ignored fear of getting sick from COVID-19 can turn into fear that others are inventing or exaggerating the pandemic for vile purposes. “

The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 has been an inexhaustible source of conspiracy theories.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 has been an inexhaustible source of conspiracy theories.

By the projection mechanism we attribute our own thoughts, feelings, motivations or actions to others. But once the conspiracy theory has taken shape, “the believers seem immune to the evidence that disproves it”Ehrenreich continued. Because, like all people, these believers often pay more attention and give more credit to information that confirms what they already believe: confirmation bias, another term in psychology that is at the center of the business model of social networks, which recommend things similar to those that someone has favored to keep you longer on the platforms.

“We also try to maintain the coherence of our beliefs”The article continued. “Information that is not consistent with them and our values ​​generate an internal feeling of discomfort, which the psychologist Leon Festinger called ‘cognitive dissonance’. Either the old story has to disappear or we have to discredit new facts so that they can be incorporated to what we already believe in ”.

A conspiracy theory gains traction until it becomes indisputable to its adherents when the created or supported by figures of social reference. “In recent years, the best example of this has been the role of Donald Trump”Ehrenreich illustrated. “Loyalty to Trump became a social identity for many people. For the Trump supporter, those who challenged him and challenged his beliefs were a threatens not only their loyalty to Trump but their own identity. So if Trump insists that COVID-19 emerged as an aggression from China or that the 2020 election was rigged, who is the supporter to disagree? “

It is true that the lower the educational level, the more belief, but 24% of university graduates and 15% of postgraduates also believe that it is

It is true that the lower the educational level, the more belief, but 24% of university graduates and 15% of postgraduates also believe that it is “likely” or “definitely true” that the powerful of the world planned the coronavirus outbreak. (REUTERS / Elijah Nouvelage)

The Republican’s speech was also mounted on a growing social mistrust. Since after the Watergate case the press deserves a 72% trust, the percentage has only gone down, until the 32% from today. Only the 35% of Americans are “very confident” in the accuracy of what the scientists.

“Some conspiracy theories can be fought on their own accord. The popular belief that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy it is probably quite harmless. But some conspiracy theories lead to actions and other beliefs that have consequences negative social issues ”, distinguished the author. They are associated, for example, with “greater acceptance of violent behavior, refusal to vaccinate school children and opposition to action against climate change”. In 2019 the Federal Investigation Agency (FBI) identified belief in theories of QAnon with a potential threat of domestic terrorism.

That and others about COVID-19, for which many people refused to wear masks in public or keeping social distance, have been especially dangerous, Ehrenreich concluded. It remains to be seen whether the “electoral robbery” has more serious consequences than the events of January 6, which caused five deaths.

Ben Oakley
Ben Oakley is the guy you can really trust when it comes to Mainstream News. Whether it is something happening at the Wall Street of New York City or inside the White House in Washington, D.C., no one can cover mainstream news like Ben. Get a daily dose of Trustworthy News by Ben Oakley, only at Globe Live Media.