Thunderpig’s Mirror

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Thunder Pig on May 2, 2008

Yesterday, I released a video debunking chemtrails in response to an obviously disturbed individual’s video.

The person refused to allow it to be posted as a response to their video. This was, of course, expected. These people will not allow their religious faith to be assaulted, at least, that was my assumption. Upon further research, there may be a better explanation:

Goertzel identified three traits as being correlated with a belief in conspiracy theories:

* anomia, the respondent stated a belief that he/she felt alienated or disaffection relative to “the system;”
* a tendency to distrust other people; and
* a feeling of insecurity regarding continued employment.

Citing Volkan, who suggested that insecure and/or discontented people very often feel a need for a tangible enemy on which to externalize their anger, Goertzel notes that conspiracy theories may serve to provide an “enemy” to blame for problems which “otherwise seem too abstract and impersonal.” He further observes that conspiracy theories also provide ready answers for the believer’s unanswered questions and help to resolve contradictions between known ‘facts’ and an individual’s belief system. The latter observation seems to be verified by the widespread acceptance within the Muslim world of the contention that the September 11 attacks were the work of Israel, in conjunction with the Bush Administration, in order to increase anti-Muslim sentiments abroad.6

Surprisingly, Goertzel found that there was no correlation between race, age, and economic status and the latter two traits. Although he did not suggest that the two latter traits mentioned above may be self-perpetuating (people who have experienced employment difficulties in the past may be more distrusting of others which, in turn, may lead to future interpersonal issues that can have a negative impact on employment), intuitive reasoning suggests that this could be possible.

In summary, I accept the published findings and opinions of Goertzel et al as being at least subjectively valid. Successful conspiracy theories are those that to some degree empower the believer against what are perceived as external forces that he/she blames for some unpleasant or undesirable facet of their lives. In addition conspiracy theories serve to absolve the individual of some degree of self-accountability since, if the individual is being “oppressed” by some powerful conspiracy, the individual’s efforts at self-advancement will always be futile and thus become nothing more than “a waste of time.” Sadly, it seems that conspiracy theories and their advocates are now deeply engrained in the popular psyche and without prospects for their ultimate refutation.

Source: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Suggested Reading:

Psychology Today

San Fransisco Chronicle

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories (Power Point Format)

Commentary

This is so sad that so many people are falling prey to these pernicious beliefs, and to those who use those beliefs to make a living…even becoming rich from them. I have tried to reason with some of these people, and found myself frustrated at their universal unwillingness to accept science, and even photographic evidence (even when identifying engine parts from a 757 inside the Pentagon for a 9/11 nut), and eventually, I was accused of being “on the payroll” of X (the Illuminati, Israel, ZOG, Karl Rove), or of being a complete idiot.

I feel like someone trying to tell cavemen that lightning is not made by the gods, that it is just a natural event. Persistent Contrails are the same thing…water vapor frozen into ice crystal in the atmosphere.

I weep for the future of mankind…and the legacy of In Search Of, and the satanic Coast to Coast AM.

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5 Responses to “The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories”

  1. purpleslog said

    This is the best blog tag ever: “911 Retards”

  2. purpleslog said

    …oh…I assume it stood for the “9/11 Truthers”, correct?

  3. Thunder Pig said

    Thanks! I apply that label to anyone who believes our government was “in on” 9/11 to any degree beyond general bureaucratic incompetence or partyline warfare that left us unable to process or act upon the “tell”.

    If I believed for one minute that it was otherwise…well, that’s best left unsaid.

  4. Justin Boland said

    If you believed otherwise, you’d be every bit as impotent and frustrated as those 9/11 retards.

    It’s even worse when, like me, you’re undecided either way. Cognitive Bias is a bitch, because it applies universally to all brain-enabled human beings. While it’s exceedingly easy to diagnose the faulty assumptions of others, we find ourselves utterly unable to even locate our own…let alone fight them.

  5. Thunder Pig said

    I believe that is what I call a blind spot…from what my friends, and foes, tell me, my blind spots are large and glaring. Good thing I can’t see ’em, huh?

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