A fresh study shows that when deciding whether to trust in a conspiracy theory or not, the mind weighs up information from our very own direct experience, what the media tells us, the expected cost or reward to us in believing the idea, and our prior views. The analysis is published online in the journal Overview of Philosophy and Psychology.
Conspiracy theories explain social and political events by claiming a powerful group is damaging our very own group or the complete community through secret plots.
Recently, examples in Western society have included that elections have already been stolen and that governments are colluding on vaccines they claim drive back the COVID-19 virus, but could actually have side effects on health, such as for example on fertility.
Conducted by Dr. Francesco Rigoli, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychology, City, University of London, the analysis adopts computer simulation to spell it out the psychology of an individual deciding whether to provide credit to a conspiracy theory. The simulation model proposed is known as the Computational Style of Conspiracy Theories (CMCT).
The CMCT considers factors influencing someone’s judgment as inputs to the model, with the output being the probability of the individual believing in a conspiracy theory.
These factors include:
- Any new evidence for or contrary to the conspiracy theory compared, such as for example other alternative, mainstream theories
- The perceived risk to the individual for not believing the conspiracy theory (or conversely the reward of believing in the conspiracy)
- The individuals prior beliefs, including negative or positive views of the planet, and states of affect (emotions) which could bias their belief in a conspiracy theory
The CMCT then weighs up these inputs by way of a probabilistic calculation, and involves an estimated odds of the individual believing the conspiracy theory.
In real life, the CMCT means an individual being more accepting of evidence they perceive to become more trustworthy and aligned more closely making use of their own world views, such as for example from favored news outlets, or indeed, anecdotal first-hand experience, than sources that aren’t.
This means that despite being offered strong evidence for a conspiracy theory to be false, the influence of the perceived risk to the individual for not believing in the conspiracy theory, strongly held prior beliefs, or indeed their emotional state, may still imply that the conspiracy theory may very well be believed.
Types of perceived risks to an individual include:
- Ostracism from the wider peer group, like a political group, for not believing what the wider group believes, such as for example an election steal
- Claims of injury to fertility from COVID-19 vaccines, as perceived by way of a young woman who would like to have children, particularly if she believes she actually is at low threat of harm from the herpes virus itself
The CMCT has similarities to “error management theory” previously put on conspiracy theories, as both concur that a perceived risk to the individual for not believing in a conspiracy theory biases them toward believing it.
However, an essential difference is that error management theory shows that folks are naturally biased toward believing in conspiracy theories through evolutionary processes, as the CMCT will not; it simply factors in the perceived risk whenever a new decision is manufactured. Here, the CMCT makes more sense, considering that no clear evidence exists to claim that humans have evolved to trust in conspiracy theories.
The CMCT model also holds a person could be more vunerable to conspiracy theories if you find too little plausible non-conspiratorial theories to describe an event. That is vital that you governments along with other institutions when communicating public health messaging, particularly in light of novel issues just like the COVID-19 pandemic, where hardly any concerning the virus was known confidently and was oftentimes poorly communicated.
Reflecting on the analysis, Dr. Rigoli said, “The computational model proposed here’s broadly in keeping with the empirical evidence, and a significant step toward a framework where to comprehend the logic used to come quickly to belief in a conspiracy theory.
“Whilst research concerning the psychological processes underlying the selling point of conspiracy theories is accumulating fast, it largely originates from the field of social psychology, where in fact the usage of computational modeling is relatively new, but by which the mechanisms of conspiracy theory adoption could be best understood.”
More info: Francesco Rigoli, Deconstructing the Conspiratorial Mind: the Computational Logic Behind Conspiracy Theories, Overview of Philosophy and Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s13164-022-00657-7
Citation: Threat of rejecting conspiracy theories could play key role within their propagation in Western society (2022, September 6) retrieved 7 September 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-conspiracy-theories-key-role-propagation.html
This document is at the mercy of copyright. Aside from any fair dealing for the intended purpose of private study or research, no part could be reproduced minus the written permission. This content is provided for information purposes only.