That’s what they want you to believe

The Psychologist has a fascinating article on the psychology of conspiracy theories, looking at what characteristics are associated with believing in sinister far-reaching explanations and what role these beliefs play in society.

I was particularly interested in one part where they note that we are influenced by such ideas even when we’re not aware of it:

Other relevant work has examined the psychological impact of exposure to conspiracy theories, particularly in relation to mass media sources (e.g. Butler et al., 1995 [who studied the psychological impact of the film JFK]), but also in relation to the third-person effect (the tendency for people to believe that persuasive media has a larger influence on others than themselves). In one study, Douglas and Sutton (2008) had participants read material containing conspiracy theories about Princess Diana’s death before rating their own and others’ agreement with the statements, as well as their perceived retrospective attitudes. They found that participants significantly underestimated how much the conspiracy theories influenced their own attitudes.

The piece also covers why conspiracy theories can seem so attractive and discusses compatibility with prior beliefs, the fact they might fill an emotional need, and how they might reflect a general distrust of authority.

However, it doesn’t touch on the fact that truth can often be stranger than fiction, giving even the most unlikely theories a wide margin of error:

The CIA setting-up fake brothels to spike punters with LSD to test its effectiveness as a new generation of mind control drug – been done; secret international network to listen in on telephone calls, faxes and e-mails – old hat; foreign journalists in the pay of intelligence services to spin the media – yesterday’s news.

It is interesting that both conspiracy theorists and conspiracy hiders use this grey area to equal effect.

Link to Psychologist article ‘The truth is out there’.

Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid associate editor and occasional columnist for The Psychologist. This site is entirely independent of the Knights Templar.

2 Comments

  1. rita
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Ah, but you DON’T say you’re NOT being controlled by the Freemasons – I think that’s pretty suspicious………..
    Douglas Adams (que en paz descanse) made one of the best comments on government manipulations hush-ups etc, to the effect that, if governments are so good at these clandestine activities, how come they’re so bad at everything else?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I’m s victim of something that has to do with orchestrated trauma, anxiety,harassment etc. etc. When I went to look for resources on this um, whatever it is, I found that there are people intentionally misleading victims like myself to adopt certain terminology to describe what it is and core beliefs about who is generating it.

    Upon further investigation, I found that both my harassers (using Ericksonian NLP no less) and the people claiming to be victims were pushing standard right wing conspiracy theories as the origins. I had never even heard of them – I’m a researcher but I don’t work on US internet pop culture. I didn’t fall for the Illuminati NWO or end-of-times theories even during the worst of it.

    The irony is that I fell for the idea that there was a stalker network out to get me. I have proof and a case number for the internet part of the stalking. Surely I wasn’t the only one? But common sense eventually prevailed.

    The other aspect was “electronic harassment.” It appears that the symptoms reported by most are actually symptoms of various types of seizures. I don’t doubt that at least initially there is an external generation of those symptoms but it’s made to look like something it’s probably not.

    I don’t even like the term “mind control” since it’s really about behavior modification or brain-to-behavior studies. It’s more like unethical and illegal mind harassment coupled with attempts to intentionally distort a victim’s reality.

    The problem now is getting justice for what actually is going on and letting others know without falling into the standard “CIA is out to get me” routine. I don’t know who’s generating it, but it most certainly is intentional.


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