Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Three types of conspiracy theory (CT) (Barkun, 2003):

  • Event conspiracies (E.g. JFK assassination)
  • Systemic conspiracies (E.g. Freemasons/Illuminati/Jews)
  • Superconspiracies (Multiple linking e.g. JFK assassinated by Freemasons to ensure US remained in Vietnam war so Illuminati could us captured UFO technology to fake moon landings so they could draw attention away from how fluoridising tap water was allowing the CIA to control minds of US populace…)

Features of CTs (Keeley, 1999):

  • The ‘classic’ CT…
  • –Runs counter to ‘official’ account
  • –Attributes nefarious motives to conspirators
  • –Ties together apparently unrelated events
  • –Alleges a ‘cover up’ by powerful figures
  • –Focuses on errant data


Personality: Locus of control (the measure of how far people see themselves as in charge of their own destiny)

Internal LOC – in control of things

External LOC – controlled by external circumstances (high in those with a belief in CTs)

Whitson & Galinsky (2008):

  • PPs whose sense of control was undermined were significantly more likely to perceive random patterns as meaningful images.

Intergroup processes & CTs:

  • Social Identity Theory

–People’s sense of self is derived from their membership of social groups e.g. cultural, religious, political, occupational, sporting, interests…

–We divide the world into in-groups (those we belong to) and out-groups

–We enhance our self-esteem by overvaluing in-groups and undervaluing or denigrating out-groups


Souce: http://www.psychlotron.org.uk


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