by Rob Brotherton.
Decoding the psychology of believing in conspiracy theories. We're all conspiracy theorists--some of us just hide it better than others.
Conspiracy theorists aren't just a handful of people who wear tin-foil hats and have bizarre ideas about shape-shifting reptilian aliens. Conspiracy theories are as likely to appeal to women as to men, college students as to retired professors, middle-class bloggers as to blue-collar workers.
Psychological research sheds light on why some people are more drawn to conspiracy thinking, especially when they feel discontented, distrustful, and desire privileged knowledge. But ultimately we are all natural-born conspiracy theorists. Our brains are wired to see patterns and to weave unrelated data points into complex stories. We instinctively see events in the world in terms of human motives and intentions, leading us to discount the role of chance and unintended consequences, and we look for some hidden hand behind catastrophic events. These psychological quirks can lead us to suspect a conspiracy where none exists.
Conspiracy theories have existed throughout history, from ancient Athens and Rome to present day theories about 9/11 and who shot JFK. Suspicious Minds explores the phenomenon and reveals the important consequences conspiracy theories can have--from discouraging parents from vaccinating their children against deadly diseases to hampering political policies to combat climate change.