Spreading the Word: Why Do We Believe In Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories, secret designs, nefarious activities, mystery stories as old as humanity where the decorations change but the plot remains. They fascinate us and pull us in, offend and enrage us, it takes an effort to ignore them, nobody is entirely immune to their potency, these arch-antagonists of a calm mind. Why? What is the source of their power?

Professor of social psychology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Jan-Willem van Prooijen, explores this question in his research. Surprisingly, it seems that much of the influence of conspiracy theories has to do with how entertaining we deem them to be. Entertainment, as we know, does not necessarily mean positive emotions. Horror movies and psychological thrillers entertain millions of people the world over. It is the intensity of emotions that matters and conspiracy theories capitalise on this sensation-seeking inclination of ours.

…and the more entertaining people find them, it seems, the more likely they are to believe in them.

Jan-Willem van Prooijen

Interested to learn more about how our minds work? Have a look at this recent article by professor van Prooijen where you will find out how attention-grabbing information influences our truth judgements: How conspiracy theories bypass people’s rationality

Keeping up the “Spreading the Word” tradition, every weekend, I hope to share with you an article I’ve read or a video I’ve seen and considered it to be inspiring and insightful. I feel it is important to take good care not just of our physical but also of our mental well-being. Humans have always turned and returned to storytelling. My weekends’ “Spreading the Word” articles are an online version of sharing worthwhile stories.   

keep exploring and storytelling!

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