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Of Conspiracy Theories

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Abstract

As the end of the Millennium approaches, conspiracy theories are increasing in number and popularity. In this short essay, I offer an analysis of conspiracy theories inspired by Hume's discussion of miracles. My first conclusion is that whereas Hume can argue that miracles are, by definition, explanations we are not warranted in believing, there is nothing analytic that will allow us to distinguish good from bad conspiracy theories. There is no a priori method for distinguishing warranted conspiracy theories (say, those explaining Watergate) from those which are unwarranted (say, theories about extraterrestrials abducting humans). Nonetheless, there is a cluster of characteristics often shared by unwarranted conspiracy theories. An analysis of the alleged explanatory virtues of unwarranted conspiracies suggests some reasons for their current popularity, while at the same time providing grounds for their rejection. Finally, I discuss how conspiracy theories embody an anachronistic world-view that places the contemporary zeitgeist in a clearer light.

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... A third objection might argue that we can simply build into the definition of Conspiracy Theories that they reject "official" explanations and that therefore DITs simply do not count as Conspiracy Theories or Theorists. Keith Harris has recently argued for this approach, citing kindred observations from other philosophers (Feldman, 2011;Keeley, 1999). 21 We can stipulate that the concept refers to "only those theories that run counter to the official account of some target event" (Harris, 2018, p. 237). ...
... It is not clear to me why we would want a view that delivers these verdicts. 21 A reviewer points out that it is not clear that Keeley's (1999) supports Harris's claims here. For other relevant discussion on the relationship between 'conspiracy theories' and official status, see Coady (2003), Levy (2007), Räikkä (2018), andDentith (2018b). ...
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I argue that that an influential strategy for understanding conspiracy theories stands in need of radical revision. According to this approach, called ‘generalism’, conspiracy theories are epistemically defective by their very nature. Generalists are typically opposed by particularists, who argue that conspiracy theories should be judged case-by-case, rather than definitionally indicted. Here I take a novel approach to criticizing generalism. I introduce a distinction between ‘Dominant Institution Conspiracy Theories and Theorists’ and ‘Non-Dominant Institution Conspiracy Theories and Theorists’. Generalists uncritically center the latter in their analysis, but I show why the former must be centered by generalists’ own lights: they are the clearest representatives of their views, and they are by far the most harmful. Once we make this change in paradigm cases, however, various typical generalist theses turn out to be false or in need of radical revision. Conspiracy theories are not primarily produced by extremist ideologies, as generalists typically claim, since mainstream, purportedly non-extremist political ideologies turn out to be just as, if not more responsible for such theories. Conspiracy theories are also, we find, not the province of amateurs: they are often created and pushed by individuals widely viewed as experts, who have the backing of our most prestigious intellectual institutions. While generalists may be able to take this novel distinction and shift in paradigm cases on board, this remains to be seen. Subsequent generalist accounts that do absorb this distinction and shift will look radically different from previous incarnations of the view.
... Conspiracy theories are theories that locate the cause for a major event in a secret plot of a powerful group [15,16]. Previous findings indicate that individuals who believe in one conspiracy theory usually believe in others as well, even if they are in contradiction to each other [15,17]. ...
... Conspiracy theories are theories that locate the cause for a major event in a secret plot of a powerful group [15,16]. Previous findings indicate that individuals who believe in one conspiracy theory usually believe in others as well, even if they are in contradiction to each other [15,17]. This inclination to believe in conspiracy theories is called conspiracy mentality [18]. ...
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Purpose This study aims to analyze if and how conspiracy mentality is associated with mental health, burden and perceived social isolation and loneliness of informal caregivers of older individuals with care needs. Methods A quantitative, cross-sectional study was conducted. Participants had to be at least 40 years of age and were drawn randomly from the German online panel forsa.omninet and questioned between the 4th and 19th of March 2021. A sample of 489 informal caregivers (relatives and non-relatives supporting individuals aged ≥ 60 years) was questioned. Conspiracy mentality, depressive symptoms, loneliness and social exclusion were measured with validated instruments (e.g., The Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire). Questions referred to the last three months prior to assessment. Multiple linear regression analyses, adjusted for sociodemographic, economic and health factors and indicators of the pandemic, were conducted. Results Findings indicate a significant positive association between conspiracy mentality and caregiver burden, loneliness, social exclusion, and depressive symptoms. No gender differences were found for any outcome. Conclusions The results indicate that conspiracy mentality could be a risk factor for mental health, perceived social isolation and loneliness, and contribute to increased caregiver burden among informal caregivers of older care recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, informal caregivers could benefit from actions focused on reducing conspiracy mentality during a health crisis, which could improve psychosocial health and wellbeing in this vulnerable group.
... Philosophers have largely agreed, since Charles Pigden's (1995) and Brian L. Keeley's (1999) seminal works in the mid-to-late 1990s, that belief in conspiracy theories is not inherently irrational. Rather, the epistemologically interesting question is whether belief in particular instances of conspiracy theories is warranted or unwarranted with respect to the available evidence. ...
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... Volkswagen did conspire to cheat on emissions tests, Richard Nixon's White House was involved in the Watergate break-in, and so on. So to what extent can we be sure that conspiracy "theories" -defined as theories about events that are not conventionally taken to be supported by evidence -are epistemically warranted or not (Keeley 1999)? How can we tell real conspiracies from baseless conspiracy theories? ...
... Even if varying in their nature (from "good" to "evil"), conspiracy theories usually concern morally questionable plans, since their typical goals involve coups, gaining economic power, rights violations, and/or hiding vital secrets (Douglas et al., 2019). As an example, conspiracists attempt to explain some specific historical events through planned and covertly enacted actions by a powerful, restricted group (Keeley, 1999;Sunstein & Vermeule, 2008). In line with their speculative core, believing in either a specific or a set of conspiracy theories is defined as "conspiracy belief" (Douglas et al., 2019). ...
Article
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In the more general climate of post-truth-a social trend reflecting a disregard for reliable ways of knowing what is true, mostly acted through massive use of misinformation and rhetoric calling for emotions-an alarming "infodemic" accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting healthy attitudes and behaviors and further lessening trust in science, institutions, and traditional media. Its two main representative items, fake and conspiracy news, have been widely analyzed in psycho-social research, even if scholars mostly acknowledged the cognitive and social dimensions of those items and devoted less attention to their discursive construction. In addition, these works did not directly compare and differentiate fake and conspiracy pathways. In order to address this gap and promote a wider understanding of these matters, a qualitative investigation of an Italian sample of 112 fake and conspiracy news articles, mostly spread during the first two COVID-19 "waves" (from March 2020 to January 2021) was realized. Our sample gathered news specifically coming from social media posts, representing easy and fast channels for viral content diffusion. We analyzed the selected texts by means of Diatextual Analysis and Discursive Action Model models, aimed to (a) offer "in depth" fine-grained analysis of the psycholinguistic and argumentative features of fake and conspiracy news, and (b) differentiate them in line with the classical Aristotle's rhetoric stances of logos, ethos, and pathos, thus bridging traditional and current lines of thinking. Even though they may share common roots set in the post-truth climate, fake and conspiracy news engage in different rhetoric patterns since they present different enjeu and construct specific epistemic pathways. Implications for health-and digital-literacy are debated.
... Regardless of the label, the distinctive news character of fake news and disinforming news distinguishes it from other forms of disinformation (Lazer et al., 2018;Pennycook & Rand, 2018;Tandoc et al., 2018). Conspiracy theories, as another form of disinformation, offer unconventional explanations for events in terms of the secret actions of a relatively small but powerful group of people (Keeley, 1999;Oliver & Wood, 2014). ...
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Misinformation is becoming an increasing problem for organizations. Therefore, it is important for organizations to decide how to react to false or inaccurate information and “fake news,” as it can potentially harm the public’s perception of organizations. In deciding how to react, organizations must also consider the frequency of corrections and rectifications. Here we argue that issuing more frequent corrections has both positive and negative effects on the perception of an organization’s trustworthiness. Using an experimental design, we uncover two counteracting effects evoked by repeated corrections. Although a high frequency of corrections directly increases organizational trust, the negative indirect effects of persuasion knowledge and reactance decrease organizational trust. In the case of a single correction of misinformation, these negative indirect effects do not occur and the positive direct effect on organizational trust prevails. This study therefore provides important insights for organizations. First, the findings emphasize the need for organizations to respond to misinformation to maintain the public’s perception of them, and second, corrections of misinformation should not be used to a great extent, but rather in a thoughtful and purposeful manner.
... Before beginning, some definitional housekeeping is required. There is debate in both the psychological and philosophical literature about what beliefs warrant the label 'conspiracy theory' [27][28][29] . Here we rely on the definitions typically used in the psychological literature, according to which a conspiracy theory is an explanation for important events and circumstances that involve secret plots by groups with malevolent agendas 30 . ...
Article
Conspiracy theories are part of mainstream public life, with the potential to undermine governments, promote racism, ignite extremism and threaten public health efforts. Psychological research on conspiracy theories is booming, with more than half of the academic articles on the topic published since 2019. In this Review, we synthesize the literature with an eye to understanding the psychological factors that shape willingness to believe conspiracy theories. We begin at the individual level, examining the cognitive, clinical, motivational, personality and developmental factors that predispose people to believe conspiracy theories. Drawing on insights from social and evolutionary psychology, we then review research examining conspiracy theories as an intergroup phenomenon that reflects and reinforces societal fault lines. Finally, we examine how conspiracy theories are shaped by the economic, political, cultural and socio-historical contexts at the national level. This multilevel approach offers a deep and broad insight into conspiracist thinking that increases understanding of the problem and offers potential solutions. Conspiracy theories have the potential to undermine governments, promote racism, ignite extremism and threaten public health efforts. In this Review, Hornsey et al. synthesize the literature on factors that shape conspiracy beliefs at the individual, intergroup and national level.
... The 2010-2020 decade has affected Western societies with political events propelled in part by conspiracy beliefs. Conspiracy beliefscan be defined as explanations of events involving a plot organized by powerful individuals pursuing a malevolent agenda (Keeley, 1999). Research on the renewal of domestic far-right and Islamist terrorism (START, 2021), the election of hardline right-populist leaders in several countries (e.g. ...
Article
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Conspiracy Beliefs (CB) are a key vector of violent extremism, radicalism and unconventional political events. So far, social-psychological research has extensively documented how cognitive, emotional and intergroup factors can promote CB. Evidence also suggests that adherence to CB moves along social class lines: low-income and low-education are among the most robust predictors of CB. Yet, the potential role of precarity-the subjective experience of permanent insecurity stemming from objective material strain-in shaping CB remains largely unexplored. In this paper, we propose for the first time a socio-functional model of CB. We test the hypothesis that precarity could foster increased CB because it undermines trust in government and the broader political 'elites'. Data from the World Value Survey (n = 21,650; Study 1, electoral CB) and from representative samples from polls conducted in France (n = 1760, Study 2a, conspiracy mentality) and Italy (n = 2196, Study 2b, COVID-19 CB), corroborate a mediation model whereby precarity is directly and indirectly associated with lower trust in authorities and higher CB. In addition, these links are robust to adjustment on income, self-reported SES and education. Considering precarity allows for a truly social-psychological understanding of CB as the by-product of structural issues (e.g. growing inequalities). Results from our socio-functional model suggest that implementing solutions at the socioeconomic level could prove efficient in fighting CB.
... National identity is one major form of identity-based communication that comprises emotionally fueled in-group favoritism and out-group hostility (Jardina, 2021;Levin & Sidanius, 1999). Conspiracy theories can invoke extensive national identity narratives by portraying politically powerful competing nations as conspirators who act for their own benefit against the common good (Keeley, 1999). This framing of messages emphasizes group conflicts (van Prooijen & van Vugt, 2018). ...
Article
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There are growing concerns about the role of identity narratives in spreading misinformation on social media, which threatens informed citizenship. Drawing on the social identity model of deindividualization effects (SIDE) and social identity theory, we investigate how the use of national identity language is associated with the diffusion and discourse of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China. Our results reveal a pattern of identity communication contagion in public conversations about conspiracies: national identity language usage in original posts is associated with more frequent use of such language in all subsequent conversations. Users who engaged in discussions about COVID-19 conspiracies used more national identity expressions in everyday social media conversations. By extending the SIDE model and social identity theory to misinformation studies, our paper offers theoretical and empirical insight into how identity-contagious communication might exacerbate public engagement with misinformation on social media in non-Western contexts.
... Ce choix terminologique est en accord avec la proposition de Douglas et al. (2019) d'utiliser le terme de croyance conspirationniste pour parler de l'adhésion à une théorie du complot spécifique. De même, nous utiliserons le terme de théorie du complot pour qualifier une forme de récit explicatif opposée à la version officielle d'un évènement (Keeley, 1999), sans pour autant qualifier le rapport de croyance à celui-ci. De plus, nous utiliserons à de nombreuses reprises le terme de croyances conspirationnistes spécifiques (i.e., à un contexte), par contraste avec ce qui s'apparenterait à des croyances conspirationnistes génériques telles que capturées par exemple par les inventaires de type BCTI (Swami et al., 2011) ou les mesures de mentalité conspirationniste de type Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire (CMQ ; Bruder, 2014). ...
Thesis
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There is a growing interest in social psychology in the study of beliefs in conspiracy theories. However, intergroup processes and consequences of these beliefs remain under-investigated. In this thesis, we argue that conspiracy beliefs can be conceptualized as social identity management strategies. We propose that this identity process is particularly at work in the case of collective narcissism (i.e., a defensive form of social identification), by attributing factors that threaten the ingroup image to the hidden and malicious actions of outgroups. Furthermore, we propose that an inflated perception of one’s ingroup victimhood motivates conspiracy beliefs. We tested the hypothesis of this process and its societal consequences through several studies. Lastly, we sought to identify some of the societal consequences of these conspiracy beliefs motivated at intergroup level. In the first chapter, we showed that conspiracy beliefs targeting outgroups are important predictors of the rejection of COVID-19 vaccination. In a second chapter, we proposed that conspiracy beliefs motivated at intergroup level have environmental consequences, mediating the relationship between national narcissism and the rejection of climate science. In a third chapter, we extended the study of the negative consequences of these defensive beliefs to prejudice against immigrants, testing the causal paths between national narcissism, perceived intergroup threat, conspiracy beliefs, and prejudice. In a fourth chapter, we tested in the context of public-health crises the idea that an inflated perception of one’s ingroup victimhood would legitimise conspiracy beliefs. In a fifth chapter, we aimed to replicate our main hypotheses in an ecological context (sport fandom at international football tournaments). We present a content analysis of tweets from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as well as material from a longitudinal study conducted during Euro 2020. This work supports the relevance of an intergroup approach to conspiracy beliefs.
... For similar reasons, researchers working on related topics such as paranoia have abandoned truth or rationality as strict definitional criteria (e.g., Raihani & Bell 2019). We therefore disagree that conspiracy theories must, by definition, be untrue or implausible (e.g., Brotherton et al. 2013, Cassam 2019, Keeley 1999. Our claim instead is that conspiracy theories have features that tend to make them, as a class of belief, more prone to falsity. ...
Article
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Conspiracy theories are abundant in social and political discourse, with serious consequences for individuals, groups, and societies. However, psychological scientists have started paying close attention to them only in the past 20 years. We review the spectacular progress that has since been made and some of the limitations of research so far, and we consider the prospects for further progress. To this end, we take a step back to analyze the defining features that make conspiracy theories different in kind from other beliefs and different in degree from each other. We consider how these features determine the adoption, consequences, and transmission of belief in conspiracy theories, even though their role as causal or moderating variables has seldom been examined. We therefore advocate for a research agenda in the study of conspiracy theories that starts—as is routine in fields such as virology and toxicology—with a robust descriptive analysis of the ontology of the entity at its center. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 74 is January 2023. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
... Una teoría conspirativa puede ser entendida como aquella que explica las causas últimas de problemas significativos aludiendo a complots secretos urdidos entre dos o más actores poderosos (Dentith & Orr, 2017;Keeley, 1999). Las teorías conspirativas reducen la frustración experimentada a la hora de entender causas complejas (Ellis, 2020;Douglas et al., 2017;Leman & Cinnirella, 2007;Van Prooijen & Douglas, 2017) al permitir un cierre cognitivo (Marchlewska et al., 2018), al mismo tiempo que refuerzan un sesgo contra los grupos poderosos o dominantes (Wood et al., 2012). ...
Article
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El pensamiento conspirativo es la tendencia a atribuir las causas de problemas importantes a complots secretos organizados por personas que buscan causar daño a la sociedad. Si bien este pensamiento tiene consecuencias importantes, no se encuentran instrumentos validados que permitan medirlo en español. El presente estudio busca cerrar esta brecha al traducir y adaptar la General Conspiracist Beliefs Scale (GCBS) al español y analizar sus evidencias de validez y confiabilidad. Para ello, se reclutó a 316 participantes en las redes sociales y se analizó la adecuación psicométrica de la prueba. Para las evidencias de validez provenientes de la estructura factorial de la prueba, se confirmó una estructura de tres factores: conspiraciones políticas, científicas y alienígenas. Las evidencias de validez provenientes del contenido de la prueba fueron adecuadas de acuerdo al coeficiente V de Aiken. Las personas con mayores niveles de pensamiento conspirativo tuvieron también respuestas consistentes en una escala de pensamiento conspirativo de un ítem, confiaban menos en la efectividad de prácticascientíficas (y más en prácticas pseudocientíficas) y exhibieron menores niveles de reflexión cognitiva, evidenciando validez proveniente de las relaciones con otras variables. En conclusión, la GCBS es una medida adecuada del pensamiento conspirativo en español.
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From #Pizzagate to anti‐vaxxers, passing by 9/11 or Obama ‘birthers’, we have seen many communities growing on social media around conspiracy theories and thereby gaining public prominence. Debunking or presenting alternative views to conspiracy theories often fails because individuals within these communities can grow more resolute, encouraging and reinforcing their beliefs online. Instead of withering in the face of contradiction, such communities hunker down; escalating their commitment to their conspiratorial beliefs. By interacting over social media platforms, they develop a sense of a shared social identity, which in turn fosters escalating behaviours and can lead to radicalization. For some people, the choice of abandoning or moderating these beliefs is unthinkable because they are too deeply invested to quit. This study advances a second‐order affordance for identity‐driven escalation that explains the process of conspiracy theory radicalization within online communities. We offer a theoretical account of the way social media platforms contribute to escalating commitment to conspiracy radicalization. We show how the sequential and combined actualization of first‐order affordances of the technology enables a second‐order affordance for escalation.
Article
There are at least five obstacles to the viability of ideology critique as a method of analysis in current conditions: (1) there is no ideology-free, God’s-eye view through which the critical theorist can analyze other ideologies; (2) few people really believe in explicit ideological justifications for exploitation and domination today, a widespread skepticism that could annul the warrant for ideology critique; (3) conspiracy theories and identity politics have superseded more universalistic and structural forms of critique, which, due to their real and superficial similarities with ideology critique, represent troublesome competitors; (4) ecological degradation is undermining the possibility of the free future that ideology critique implicitly anticipates; and (5) due to the decline of radical labor movements and near-absolute control of consciousness by the culture industry, the audience for ideology critique is so small and distracted that thoughtful, written analyses of ideology may be pointless. Despite these obstacles, I defend ideology critique as a viable and beneficial method. Barrier (5) is the only obstacle that I think has the potential to deliver a death blow to ideology critique in the foreseeable future.
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Article
Several philosophers and psychologists have characterized belief in conspiracy theories as a product of irrational reasoning. Proponents of conspiracy theories apparently resist revising their beliefs given disconfirming evidence and tend to believe in more than one conspiracy, even when the relevant beliefs are mutually inconsistent. In this paper, we bring leading views on conspiracy theoretic beliefs closer together by exploring their rationality under a probabilistic framework. We question the claim that the irrationality of conspiracy theoretic beliefs stems from an inadequate response to disconfirming evidence and internal incoherence. Drawing analogies to Lakatosian research programs, we argue that maintaining a core conspiracy belief can be Bayes-rational when it is embedded in a network of auxiliary beliefs, which can be revised to protect the more central belief from disconfirmation. We propose that the irrationality associated with conspiracy belief lies not in a flawed updating method, but in a failure to converge toward well-confirmed, stable belief networks in the long run. This approach not only reconciles previously disjointed views, but also points toward more specific descriptions of why agents may be prone to adopting beliefs in conspiracy theories.
Chapter
Conspiracy theories (CTs) have an extraordinarily persuasive effect on parts of the public. How can they achieve such a socio-communicative impact, given their lack of factual evidence? The chapter studies allegations by conservative US politicians, especially former President Donald Trump, that the virus which caused the COVID-19 pandemic was intentionally “unleashed” by the Chinese government on the world, including the USA. Using relevance-oriented pragmatics of figurative language use, we analyze Trump’s blaming policy as an attempt to construe an anti-Chinese CT by inducing the public to suspend their “epistemic vigilance” (Sperber et al. 2010), not only on account of his political “authority” as well as their ideological and group loyalty to him but also due to the CT’s seeming coherence in explaining the pandemic as part of a war-like US-Chinese conflict. However, the persuasiveness of this particular CT (as measured in Trump’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for a second term of office in 2020) seems to have been limited, due to the continuing lack of corroborating evidence for several key-parts of the narrative, e.g. for alleged Chinese “accountability” and a US “victory”. Trump’s only partially successful attempt at launching an anti-China CT shows that the relationship between empirical evidence (or lack of them) and their scenario frame can affect the reception of CTs so that critical inferential tests may be reinstated and help counteract their populist appeal.
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Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an “infodemic” of misinformation and conspiracy theory. This article points to three explanatory factors: the challenge of forming accurate beliefs when overwhelmed with information, an implausibly individualistic conception of epistemic virtue, and an adversarial information environment that suborns epistemic dependence. Normally we cope with the problems of informational excess by relying on other people, including sociotechnical systems that mediate testimony and evidence. But when we attempt to engage in epistemic “superheroics” - withholding trust from others and trying to figure it all out for ourselves – these can malfunction in ways that make us vulnerable to forming irrational beliefs. Some epistemic systems are prone to coalescing audiences around false conspiracy theories. This analysis affords a new perspective on philosophical efforts to understand conspiracy theories and other epistemic projects prone to collective irrationality.
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The present research aims to identify unique characteristics of written conspiracy theories. In two pre‐registered quantitative human‐coded content analyses, we compared 36 pairs of conspiratorial and non‐conspiratorial online articles about various events. As predicted, conspiratorial articles—compared to non‐conspiratorial articles—contained less factual, more emotional and more threat‐related information. Also, we predicted and found that conspiratorial articles presented more argumentation against the opposing standpoint and that they provided explanations that were more dispositional and less falsifiable. Contrary to our predictions, we did not consistently observe that conspiratorial articles presented less argumentation for their own standpoint. Also, we did not find consistent support that conspiratorial articles provided less information about the specific process or more information about the underlying goals of the respective events, or that conspiratorial explanations attributed the events to a lesser extent to situational factors. We discuss the relevance of our findings for the understanding of conspiracy theories.
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The Plandemic conspiracy theory, which advances that the Covid-19 pandemic was an orchestrated event, was propagated via digital platforms across various countries throughout the pandemic, including Turkey. In this article, I analyse the conspiratorial tweets about the Plandemic on Turkish Twitter through CDA to show dispositions of different ideologies to conspiracy theories in Turkey. Findings show that the users combine the conspiracy theories that originated in the West with those that originated in Turkey to fortify the conspiratorial narrative concerning the Plandemic. I also detect the ideologies of tweets and users by elaborating their lexica and discourses, and I categorize them as conservative/Islamist and oppositional. The analysis shows that the Islamist/conservative community is likelier to employ the general characteristic of conspiracy in their discourse, meaning that they utilize a more mythic discourse based on unquestionable, godly storytelling. Nonetheless, the secular/opposition community also promotes the Plandemic conspiracy to cursorily criticize social injustice.
Book
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Research
Les précédentes recherches ont démontré que les personnes qui ont tendance à se fier à leurs intuitions et, qui ont des connaissances scientifiques de base plus faibles sont moins capables de discerner les informations vraies et fausses concernant la COVID-19 (Čavojová et al., 2022; Pennycook et al., 2020). Cette exposition à des informations erronées et les inquiétudes quant à la sécurité des vaccins peuvent contribuer à la baisse des intentions de se faire vacciner. Dans cette étude, un prétest investiguant les raisons de se faire vacciner ou non a été conduit. Les réponses ont été analysées de manière qualitative et ont permis de relever que la solidarité et la protection des autres ainsi que la protection personnelle étaient les principales raisons de se faire vacciner. D’autre part, les raisons principales de ne pas se faire vacciner étaient principalement liées au vaccin et sa nouvelle technologie vaccinale, notamment le manque de recul et le manque de confiance, ainsi qu’aux restrictions antidémocratiques. Ensuite, ces réponses ont permis d’élaborer deux listes de raisons, respectivement pour et contre la vaccination. Le but de cette recherche quantitative est d’investiguer les éventuels liens entre le statut vaccinal et le style de pensée (intuitif ou analytique). Tout d’abord les résultats de l’étude 2 rejoignent ceux de l’étude 1 concernant les raisons de refuser la vaccination. Cependant, les résultats ont mis en avant des différences selon la profession concernant les raisons des se faire vacciner. Ensuite, les résultats ont également révélé que les personnes vaccinées avaient des connaissances factuelles au sujet de la vaccination plus élevées que le groupe de personnes non-vaccinées, néanmoins les résultats ont démontré que les facteurs cognitifs (style de pensée) n’ont pas permis de prédire l'adhésion à la vaccination. Finalement, seules la croyance dans la science et les performances aux questions factuelles permettent de prédire le statut vaccinal.
Article
Growing concern has been expressed that we have entered a “post-truth” era in which each of us willfully believes whatever we choose, aided and abetted by alternative and social media that spin alternative realities for boutique consumption. A prime example of the belief in alternative realities is said to be acceptance of “conspiracy theories”––a term that is often used as a pejorative to indict claims of conspiracy that are so obviously absurd that only the unhinged could believe them. The epistemological standard often involved in this indictment, however—the standard of “obvious” falsity—invites subjectivity in its application, because what is obviously false to one person can be common sense to another. This is not just a truism; considerable research suggests that people’s political beliefs, in general, and their acceptance or rejection of conspiracy theories in particular, tends in large part to be determined by partisan, ideological, and other priors.
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Este artigo pretende analisar a construção de autoridade científica em vídeos do YouTube de teoristas da conspiração que defendem que a Terra é plana. Analisaremos aqui como a cultura de teorias da conspiração é diretamente ligada ao enfraquecimento das instituições da modernidade. Debateremos o papel das políticas do YouTube como distribuidor deste conteúdo e usaremos o canal brasileiro Professor Terra Plana para exemplificar estas práticas.
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Conspiracy theories are spreading faster than ever and pose a real danger to our societies. It is natural to accuse the consumers of conspiracy theories of irrationality – that they are either not looking at or appropriately sensitive to all the available evidence. In this paper, I attempt to determine if we can make sense of this general idea. I argue that we cannot: conspiracy theories do not spread because the people who believe them are irrational – at least, not necessarily so. In addition, I explore some alternative strategies for responding to the problem of the spread of conspiracy theories. I argue that in addition to confrontational strategies such as social shaming, we need more constructive programs of community activism to battle the spread of conspiracy theories.
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This chapter analyzes how the Great Replacement conspiracy theory is exploited in far-right discursive strategies. Indeed, the common ground and/or collective narratives identified in discourses such as the Great Replacement theory have been created through re- or de-construction of current news, such as the influx of migrants. We draw on the Dynamic Model of Meaning theory, combining the theoretical concept of (emergent) common ground – fundamental to intercultural pragmatics–and the notion of proximization. Our data comprises Marine Le Pen interviews, Viktor Orbán speeches, and Matteo Salvini tweets, where we examine various aspects of their narratives as well as the specific contextualization. Our analysis reveals both common ground and cross-cultural variation in the conspiracy narratives disseminated by these far-right leaders: inferences vs. directness; national history vs. doomed future. We conclude by suggesting that such narratives work as metaphor scenarios and could, in fact, represent covert hate speech against a specific community. Moreover, these narratives function as useful political arguments, since they arouse strong emotions against the declared enemies of populists. While a rational and well-documented counter-discourse is needed to answer such strategies, it is crucial to both deconstruct and understand the beliefs underlying the emotions that lead a person to trust such beliefs.
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Humanity is under siege with Covid-19. Whilst the crisis aggravates, the world is also grappling with yet another challenge - a global misinformation conundrum. This arises from the spread of contagious conspiracy theories that obfuscate understanding the pandemic at best. Incidentally, the conspiracy theories have gone as viral as Covid-19 itself, spreading just as swiftly digitally as the virus does physically. The outcome has been a spectrum of attitudinal patterns, ranging from cynicism and skepticism to outright denialism and fatalism. Using a conversational analysis that is predicated on extant literature and personal insights, the paper examines the import of conspiracy theories as a major complication of the Covid- 19 challenge. The paper posits that the theories have produced narratives and attitudinal outcomes that not only misrepresent the pandemic but also complicate its mitigation.
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In recent years conspiracy theories have become increasingly “normalised, institutionalised and commercialized”, penetrating mainstream discourses and popular culture. This trend has fostered growing interest among scholars in examining how conspiracy theories function in legacy and new media. To this end, content analyses have become a highly relevant research method to systematically examine the communication patterns of conspiracy theories. Focusing on digital media, this chapter discusses the application of content analyses to research conspiracy theories.
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Napolitano (The epistemology of fake news, Oxford University Press, 2021) argues that the Minimalist Account of conspiracy theories—i.e., which defines conspiracy theories as explanations, or theories, about conspiracies—should be rejected. Instead, she proposes to define conspiracy theories as a certain kind of belief—i.e., an evidentially self-insulated belief in a conspiracy. Napolitano argues that her account should be favored over the Minimalist Account based on two considerations: ordinary language intuitions and theoretical fruitfulness. I show how Napolitano’s account fails its own purposes with respect to these two considerations and so should not be favored over the Minimalist Account. Furthermore, I propose that the Minimalist Account is the best conception of ‘conspiracy theory’ if we share Napolitano’s goal of advancing the understanding of conspiracy theories.
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What leads people to believe in conspiracy theories? In this paper, we explore the possibility that people might be drawn towards conspiracy theories because believing in them might satisfy certain existential needs and help people find meaning in their life. Through two studies (N = 289 and 287 after exclusion), we found that participants higher in the need and search for meaning were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. This relationship was not moderated by participants' feelings of control. We also found that believing in conspiracy theories was associated with more presence of meaning (Study 1), and more precisely with a heightened feeling of mattering in the grand scheme of things (Study 2). Additionally, we found that participants were more likely to endorse conspiracy theories that left them more agency and allowed them the possibility to make a difference. Overall, we argue that our results suggest that people might sometimes be drawn towards conspiracy theories because they allow them to feel as if they can make a difference and have a positive impact on the world, and thus that conspiracy theories can be used as tools to satisfy existential needs.
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Research suggests that a number of cognitive processes—including pattern perception, intentionality bias, proportionality bias, and confirmation bias—may underlie belief in a conspiracy theory. However, there are reasons to believe that conspiracy theory beliefs also depend in part on a failure to understand the probability of actual events allegedly supporting those conspiracy theories as well as a failure to entertain disconfirming evidence that may contradict those beliefs. Study 1 examines the relationships between general beliefs in conspiracy theories, belief in a novel conspiracy theory, conjunctive error propensity, and the propensity to consider disconfirming evidence. Study 2 investigates the roles of confronting both the propensity to make conjunctive errors and the failure to consider disconfirming evidence in changing conspiracy theory beliefs as well as attitudes associated with those beliefs. The results of both studies suggest that corrections to one's propensity to make conjunctive errors and mindful consideration of disconfirming evidence may serve as viable methods of self‐persuasion pertaining to conspiracy theory beliefs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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We examined how individuals that may be labelled “conspiracy theorists” respond to discrimination against “conspiracy theorists”. In line with the Rejection-Identification Model (Branscombe et al., 1999), we hypothesised that perceived group-based discrimination against conspiracy theorists would strengthen identification with the “conspiracy theorist” ingroup. We propose that this relationship might be mediated by meta-conspiracy beliefs, that is, the belief that the discrimination of conspiracy theorists is itself a conspiracy. Three studies (Ns = 97, 364, 747) among participants who had been labelled as “conspiracy theorist” in the past (Studies 1-2) or who had been labelled as such at the beginning of the experiment (Study 3) revealed robust positive relationships between perceived discrimination of conspiracy theorists, meta conspiracy beliefs, and identification. Furthermore, in Studies 2-3, identification was strongly associated with positive intergroup differentiation and pride to be a conspiracy theorist. However, there was no evidence that a manipulation of discrimination with bogus public opinion polls affected “conspiracy theorist” identification or meta-conspiracy beliefs. A Bayesian internal meta-analysis of the studies returned moderate (for group identification) to strong (for meta-conspiracy beliefs) support for the null hypothesis. In contrast, in Study 3, a manipulation of discrimination by powerholders enhanced both identification and meta-conspiracy beliefs. This suggests that the source of discrimination moderates the causal relationship between perceived discrimination of conspiracy theorists and group identification.
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In contrast to beliefs in specific conspiracy theories, conspiratorial predispositions refer to people's propensity to view the world in conspiratorial terms. As such, they are one of the most important antecedents of beliefs in specific conspiracy theories. Understanding the antecedents of conspiratorial predispositions is hence important. Despite this, there is still only limited research on the antecedents of conspiratorial predispositions. Previous research has also not taken the role of media use into account, even though media constitute the most important source of politically and societally information. To remedy this, in the current study we use a large-scale panel study in Sweden to investigate the antecedents of conspira-torial predispositions, with a particular focus on the role of media use. Among other things, the results show that use of right-wing political alternative media is one of the most important antecedents of conspiratorial predispositions, even when accounting for ideological leaning and ideological extremity.
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Public conspiracy beliefs prevent various social institutions including governments from communicating effectively. Fostering effective communication with high conspiracy belief individuals, who often disregard important public health messages, is crucial. This study investigated whether war framing could be used to effectively communicate with highly suspicious individuals. Specifically, it used an online experiment with 398 Korean citizens to examine how war-framing effects vary based on individual differences in general conspiracy and government-related conspiracy beliefs in the COVID-19 vaccination context. The results generally showed that literal messages were more effective for low conspiracy belief individuals while war-framed messages were more effective for those with high conspiracy beliefs. Additional analysis indicated that general conspiracy and government-related conspiracy beliefs were negatively associated with individuals’ vaccination attitudes and intentions. This study concludes by discussing the practical implications of its findings for health communication involving highly suspicious individuals.
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We experimentally investigate how and when the public responds to government actions during times of crisis. Public reactions are shown to follow different processes, depending on whether government performs in exemplary or unsatisfactory ways to the COVID‐19 pandemic. The ‘how’ question is addressed by proposing that negative moral emotions mediate public reactions to bad government actions, and positive moral emotions mediate reactions to good government actions. Tests of mediation are conducted while taking into account attitudes and trust in the government as rival hypotheses. The ‘when’ question is studied by examining self‐regulatory moderators governing the experience of moral emotions and their effects. These include conspiracy beliefs, political ideology, attachment coping styles and collective values. A total of 357 citizens of a representative sample of adult Norwegians were randomly assigned to two experimental groups and a control group, where complaining, putting pressure on the government and compliance to Covid‐19 policies were dependent variables. The findings show that negative moral emotions mediate the effects of government doing badly on complaining and pressuring the government, with conspiracy beliefs moderating the experience of negative moral emotions and attachment coping moderating the effects of negative moral emotions. The results also show that positive moral emotions mediate the effects of government doing well on compliance with COVID‐19 regulations, with political ideology moderating the experience of positive moral emotions and collective values moderating the effects of positive moral emotions.
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Despite a growing literature on the topic, little is known about how individuals perceive the label “conspiracy theory”. In two studies, we compare social representations of conspiracy theories, and how these are influenced by individuals’ own conspiracy beliefs. In addition, we examine how these representations relate to how scholars define and explain conspiracy theories. In Study 1, we used lexicometric analysis to explore the vocabulary that French participants (n = 939) spontaneously associated with the notion of ‘conspiracy theory’ and the personal definitions they provided. The representation of participants scoring high on the generic conspiracist beliefs scale was centred on the content of conspiracy theories (e.g., “lies” or “government”). By contrast, the representation of participants scoring low on the conspiracist beliefs scale was centred on the believer (e.g., “paranoia” or “cognitive biases”). They proposed definitions of conspiracy theories centred on the function(s) conspiracy theories supposedly fulfil for the believer (e.g., simplify complex realities). To make sure that these results did not merely express participants’ endorsement or rejection of conspiracy theories, we carried out a second study. In Study 2 (n = 272), we found that the more participants endorsed generic conspiracist beliefs, the less they mobilised intra-individual causes (e.g., reasoning biases) to explain why some people believe in conspiracy theories that they did not endorse themselves. This research shows that people’s representations of conspiracy theories differ depending on their conspiracy beliefs.
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Objectives: This study analyzed the conspiracy mentality of informal caregivers for older persons compared to non-caregivers and whether this association was dependent on age. Methods: The sample was collected randomly from a population-based online panel (forsa.omninet) and represents individuals aged ≥40 years from Germany. In total, 3022 participants were questioned about conspiracy mentality (Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire), informal care provision (N = 489 informal caregivers of older adults), and sociodemographic background. Data assessment took place between 4th and 19th March 2021 and the questions referred to the time between December 2020 and March 2021. Results: No significant differences were found between informal caregivers and non-caregivers. A significant interaction effect was found, indicating a decrease of conspiracy mentality among non-caregivers and an increase among informal caregivers with higher age. After stratifying by gender, this effect was found only among female informal caregivers. Conclusion: Middle-aged informal caregivers had a lower, and older-aged a higher, susceptibility to conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to non-caregivers. The results indicate that providing care could be protective among middle-aged individuals, whereas older informal caregivers may benefit from interventions to reduce susceptibility to conspiracy theories and the associated risks for health and wellbeing.
For more on aspects on the social collstruction of warranted belief, see Helen Longino's Science ns Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivztj in Scientific Inquiry
  • C A J Coady
For more on the critical role of testimony in the epistemic process, see C. A. J. Coady, Testinzony:A Philosophical Stzcdy (New York: Oxford, 1992). For more on aspects on the social collstruction of warranted belief, see Helen Longino's Science ns Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivztj in Scientific Inquiry (Princeton: University Press, 1990), and "The Fate of h o w l e d g e in Social Theories of Science," in Frederick F. Schmitt, ed., Socializing.Epistemolog3': The Social Dimensions ofKnozu1edg.e (Lanham, M D : Rowan and Littlefield, 1994), pp. 135-57; and Kitcher's "Socializing Kno~vledge," this JOURNX, I.XXXWII, 11 (November 1991): 675-76, and "Contrasting Conceptions of Social Epistemology," in Schmitt, pp. 11 1-34.