Links and Comments: Storytelling; Religious Fundamentalism and Fake News; the Attraction of Conspiracy Theories

Time magazine, December 5, 2017, Jeffrey Kluger: How Telling Stories Makes Us Human

[S]torytelling is a powerful means of fostering social cooperation and teaching social norms, and it pays valuable dividends to the storytellers themselves, improving their chances of being chosen as social partners, receiving community support and even having healthy offspring.

A study of storytelling in forager cultures in Thailand, Malaysia, Africa and elsewhere. Storytelling has evolutionary benefits.

Of course, nothing captures natural selection quite like the number of babies any one person has, and storytelling confers that benefit too — at least on the tellers. “Storytelling is a costly behavior,” write the researchers, “requiring an input of time and energy into practice, performance and cognitive processing.” But the payoff for making such an effort is big: When the investigators looked at family groups within the 18 camps, they found that skilled storytellers had, on average, .53 more living children than other people.

\\

Patheos: Researchers Find Link Between Religious Fundamentalism and Falling for Fake News.

A new working paper by researchers at Yale University finds that the kind of people more likely to believe stories that are literally “fake news” — who fall for the hoaxes, if you will — are those who believe in delusions (like telepathic communication), are dogmatic in their thinking, and are just flat-out religious fundamentalists.

It makes a lot of sense. After all, the paper notes, evidence “suggests that religious fundamentalists may engage in less analytic and actively open-minded thinking.” I believe that. They already believe in huge amount of nonsensical garbage — a talking snake, a young Earth, God watches over you, Jesus performed miracles, etc. — in large part because they live in bubbles where those stories feel convincing despite not measuring up to reality. When pastors tell you those lies with conviction, and a sacred book reiterates the lies, and your parents teach you that doubting the lies could lead you down the path to eternal punishment, it makes a lot of sense that news articles that appear legitimate would just be taken as gospel.

\\

The Week, from Aeon: How to think like a conspiracy theorist, by Roland Imhoff.

It’s partly about feeling a lack of control about one’s life…

The rationale behind this is that lacking control increases the need to engage in the compensatory illusion of control — that is, in conspiracy theories. Detecting patterns where there are none at least leaves open the possibility of gaining control, whereas the attribution of, say, a natural disaster to unchangeable and uncontrollable weather dynamics does not.

And also this:

Belief in conspiracies can serve to set oneself apart from the ignorant masses — a self-serving boast about one’s exclusive knowledge. Adherence to conspiracy theory might not always be the result of some perceived lack of control, but rather a deep-seated need for uniqueness.

And so the researchers invented a conspiracy theory from scratch, and tested it out.

The new conspiracy seemed to be more attractive if it was a minority opinion. It set them apart from the masses.

This entry was posted in Narrative, Psychology, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply