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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? Show more Show less

Studies show that the majority of people believe in at least one conspiracy theory. They’re becoming increasingly pervasive in our everyday lives, with it not being uncommon to hear conspiracy theories coming from commanders-in-chief. Why would someone believe something that others perceive as crazy?

People believe conspiracy theories as a cognitive reaction Show more Show less

The reasons we believe in conspiracy theories are rooted deep in our subconscious.
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Fatal attribution error

People believe in conspiracies because of fatal attribution error - a psychological instinct.
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The Argument

Generally, we explain events to ourselves based on the circumstances of the individual situation (situational factors) or on the disposition of the people involved (dispositional factors).[1] People have a tendency to over utilise dispositional factors when explaining things to themselves - for instance, if a date is late, we may be more likely to think we are being stood up than that their train is late, even if the latter is much more likely. This is fatal attribution error. Fatal attribution error is part of the underpinning of conspiracy theories. For instance, the conspiracy theories around the murder of Seth Rich[2] take something that is most likely situational (a mugging-turned-murder) and makes it dispositional (Hillary Clinton is evil and therefore would assassinate someone tangentially connected to the DNC). Cognitively, we feel uncomfortable replacing a dispositional explanation with a situational one, which makes conspiracy theories difficult to let go of.

Counter arguments



[P1] People are inclined to fatal attribution error - attributing things that happen because of situational factors on dispositional factors. [P2] People are inclined to believe conspiracy theories because they give dispositional explanations for events that probably happened for situational reasons.

Rejecting the premises


Further Reading



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This page was last edited on Monday, 16 Mar 2020 at 16:28 UTC