Psychological forces like motivated reasoning have long been associated with conspiracy thinking, but scientists are learning more every year, states today’s Salon.com, continuing: “For instance, a British study published last year found that people who believe one conspiracy theory are prone to believe many, even ones that are completely contradictory. “We’ve written before about the historical and social aspects of conspiracy theories, but wanted to learn more about the psychology of people who believe, for instance, that the Boston Marathon bombing was a government “false flag” operation. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Western Australia, published a paper late last month in the journal Psychological Science that has received widespread praise for looking at the thinking behind conspiracy theories about science and climate change. We asked him to explain the psychology of conspiracy theories. This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
“There are number of factors, but probably one of the most important ones in this instance is that, paradoxically, it gives people a sense of control. People hate randomness, they dread the sort of random occurrences that can destroy their lives, so as a mechanism against that dread, it turns out that it’s much easier to believe in a conspiracy. Then you have someone to blame, it’s not just randomness. Continue reading “The appeal of conspiracy theories”