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Conspiracy Theories

I stumbled across this article the other day and it really solidified some concepts that I had been thinking about for a while:

Why do people believe in Conspiracy Theories (Psychology Today)

If you can’t be arsed reading it, here’s the TL:DR:

According to a recent article in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, there are,

3 main reasons people believe in conspiracy theories:

  1. The desire for understanding and certainty
  2. The desire for control and security
  3. The desire to maintain a positive self-image

I’ve wondered a lot about this and I think this article is aligned with where some of my own theories have been headed. I’ve been curious about this, not just because I have plenty of folks I know (family, friends & acquaintances) that believe some pretty whacky conspiracy theories, but also because, during my university days, I was once down that rabbit-hole myself.

Aliens, 9/11, the “New World Order” and more. Yep, I’m a recovering conspiracy theorist.

Nothing has helped me move away from this world more than having self-confidence and a circle of friends. I’ve also been fascinated by psychology, namely the many kinds of cognitive bias, evolutionary and motivational psychology, along with a better understanding of how to analyse and interpret data, this intellectual pursuit put the nail in the coffin. Working with smart data analysts at Spotify and also previously dating a kind, compassionate PhD in Physics certainly helped.

My question for those of you that believe in a fairly extreme alternative narrative is — what if you’re wrong? How much of your identity and world view is attached to your beliefs? Or even better, are you truly willing to BE wrong? Is that a reality you’re willing to accept?

The big problem is that sometimes, the theorists are partially or even fully right about SOME of their ideas. Which unfortunately gives credibility to all of their other crazy ideas. As far as I know, Alex Jones, David Icke, these guys have been correct about some things before, but that’s likely 1% of the time, the other 99% is simply confirmation bias and looking for causation in correlation, when it is simply not there.

The only thing I know now is that no story is black and white. There is always more that we don’t know and the world is full of paradox and complexity. And even people that do terribly evil shit, don’t always end up there through some maniacal plan. Sometimes it’s just opportunism, greed and incompetence. I do believe that there are many legitimate conspiracies out there, I just believe that most aren’t so sexy and exciting. (e.g. the influence that the Murdoch media empire has on Australian politics is one that I actively find interesting)

I do worry that this obsession with misinformation is going to cause so much distrust and polarisation in our society that we simply can’t trust science anymore and that leaves us with psuedo science and manipulation.

Be a skeptic. Be compassionate. Be humble. ❤️