First at Slate, an efficient recounting of the psychological reasons behind the attraction to conspiracy theories.
John Ehrenreich: Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories, subtitled “They’re not stupid.”
Long quote with links to references left intact:
What does predict belief in conspiracy theories? A cocktail of personality traits. Those who believe these theories typically show high levels of anxiety independent of external sources of stress, a high need for control over environment, and a high need for subjective certainty and, conversely, a low tolerance for ambiguity. They tend to have negative attitudes to authority, to feel alienated from the political system, and to see the modern world as unintelligible. Conspiracy theory believers are often suspicious and untrusting, and see others as plotting against them. They struggle with anger, resentment, and other hostile feelings as well as with fear. They have lower self-esteem than nonbelievers and have a need for external validation to maintain their self-esteem. They may have a strong desire to feel unique and special, and an exaggerated need to be in an exclusive in-group. Belief in conspiracy theories often also goes along with belief in paranormal phenomena, skepticism of scientific knowledge, and weaknesses in analytic thinking. Proneness to belief in conspiracy theories is also associated with religiosity, especially with people for whom a religious worldview is especially important. These traits are hardly universal among or exclusive to conspiracy theorists, but they help create a vulnerability to belief.
The articles goes on to discuss the psychological biases everyone is prone to: motivated reasoning, fundamental attribution error, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance. And how Trump and other conservatives foster mistrust of instituions, including of mainstream mass media, and scientists.
Second, a long piece by Joe Forrest, on his “Progressive Christian’s Blog”:
TLDR, but scanning it reveals (of course) many of the same points, with longer examples:
- Conspiracy Theories Make Us Feel Special.
- Conspiracy Theories Help Us Make Sense of a Chaotic and Complicated World.
- Conspiracy Theories Make Our Reality Seem More Exciting.
And then a section about “The Christian Problem” and then an: “Addendum: How to Not Be Fooled by a Conspiracy Theory.”