While psychologists can’t know exactly what goes on inside our heads, they have, through surveys and laboratory studies, come up with a set of traits that correlate well with conspiracy belief. In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.
Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty, a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action. Paul Whalen, a scientist at Dartmouth College who studies the amygdala, says it doesn’t exactly do anything on its own. Instead, the amygdala jump-starts the rest of the brain into analytical overdrive prompting repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent and understandable narrative, to understand what just happened, what threats still exist and what should be done now. This may be a useful way to understand how, writ large, the brain’s capacity for generating new narratives after shocking events can contribute to so much paranoia in this country.
I don't see the point of trying to convince Prototypical there wasn't a conspiracy - all evidence indicates it isn't possible to talk a conspiracy theorist out of his conspiracies. Proto seems much more useful as a test subject or example of the pathology to see if he conforms to the hypothesis put forth by the psychological research briefly described in Message 1. For instance, is he "cynical about the world in general"? Does he have "low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large"? Does he appear to be reacting to a sense of "uncertainty and powerlessness"? Has he performed "repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent and understandable narrative"?
There *is* one thing I wonder about conspiracy theorists that the pschologists haven't addressed yet, at least not in the studies that were the focus of the NYT article. For things that have actually happened, evidence eventually comes to light. As time passes and evidence supporting conspiracy scenarios never emerges, how come conspiracy theorists still hold to their theories? How come they don't continue the "repeated reassessments of information" in light of the lack of emerging evidence?
How come they don't continue the "repeated reassessments of information" in light of the lack of emerging evidence?
I tend to reassess my evaluations when new evidence does emerge not when it fails to emerge.
What you have is evidence that Flight 77 isn't what hit the Pentagon. Where is the evidence of what did actually hit the Pentagon? Where did Flight 77 go, and where are all the people who were on it?
For the sake of this thread these are rhetorical questions. The actual question is what effect these kinds of questions have on the thinking of conspiracy theorists, or even whether they consider such questions.
I don't think anyone is arguing that you're alone in your conspiracy beliefs. In fact, it is the regularity with which conspiracy-style beliefs are accepted that makes it a fertile area of psychological study.
So of course there are many others who share your pathology, some of whom are experienced armed forces and commercial pilots. They also share your lack of evidence for "what really happened."
It seems to me that there is no essential difference in the process that people use to form their opinions only a critical difference in the threshold at which they accept something as fact.
I think the key issue is when resort is made to unseen or unknown forces or agents for which there is no evidence. So when you ask, "Is a CTer more likely to suspect that their spouse is cheating on them?" the answer is that whenever they do suspect things of going awry, they're more likely to assign blame to unseen or unknown forces or agents.