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The Conspiracy Mentality

07 - The Psychological Profile

This is my (still developing) understanding and review of the psychological literature on the origin and influeces on the ocnspiracy mentality. This is going to be a long one, but contains the most robust explanation I've found to date for the potential psychological causes, traits, and patterns of alternative-thinkers.

There isn't one single definitive cause for conspiracy belief adoption which makes it difficuilt to analyse. What we can do is look at common psychology traits and make a rough summary of what might contribute to conspiracy adoption. Everyone's different to some degree, but they're also the same in others.


From Frontiers in Psychology, this is a study titled: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Psychological Research on Conspiracy Beliefs: Field Characteristics, Measurement Instruments, and Associations With Personality Traits

This study exmapled whether the 5 personality traits: Agreeableness, openness, neuroticism, concienciousness, and extroversion correlated with a belief in conspiracy theories.

“A considerable number of variables have been suggested as predictors of conspiracy beliefs, amongst them personality factors such as low agreeableness (as disagreeableness is associated with suspicion and antagonism) and high openness to experience (due to its positive association to seek out unusual and novel ideas).”


Personally, I was epxecting for openness to be a factor as the odoption of conspiracy theories are readily accepted and not scruitinised. This is outlined in the quote above. Suprisingly, their results concluded that personality traits comprised a non-significant proportion of the factors in the adoption of conspiracy belief.

“Meta-analysis revealed that agreeableness, openness to experience, and the remaining Big Five personality factors were not significantly associated with conspiracy beliefs if effect sizes are aggregated”


I thought this was strange, but as you will read in the philosophy and science section later, that doesn't mean it's wrong or flawed. I might be mistaken. Non-significant doesn't mean no effect, either. Some studies have shown a correlation, some do not. This would suggest it plays a role, or is associated with an underlying factor.

“studies also investigated non-pathological individual differences and their associations. Examples are a positive association between conspiracy beliefs and narcissism, self-esteem (Cichocka et al., 2016a), attitudes to authority (Imhoff and Bruder, 2014), social dominance orientation (Swami, 2012), anomia (Wagner-Egger and Bangerter, 2007), and political cynicism (Swami and Furnham, 2012). Lower analytic thinking was also related to conspiracy beliefs (Swami et al., 2014).”


This speaks to me so much. This is exactly how I see who I used to be. I used to be very negative and narsassistic. I had a detatchment with authority and thought it was conspiring against me. I felt like I was part of an outsider group who had been woke up to the matrix as it were. Politics was a diversionary tactic by those in power to distract the stupid public. I also didn't have much of any critical or analytical motivation or knowledge. I just thought I was right.

“people were found to believe in conspiracy theories that contradicted each other, e.g., “Princess Diana faked her own death so that she and Dodi Al-Fayed could retreat into isolation” and “Diana had to be killed because the British government could not accept that the mother of the future king was involved with a Muslim Arab” (Wood et al., 2012, p. 769) were both agreed upon. There are even examples of beliefs in entirely fictitious conspiracy theories (e.g., “The slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ is used because in animal experiments, rats grew rudiment wings,” Swami et al., 2011, p. 455).”


Yes. Even now, people are saying that masks can't stop a virus, but in the same argument claim it blocks oxygen and carbon dioxide causing hypoxia. Atoms of oxygen and molecules of carbon dioxide are drastically smaller than the Sars-Cov-2 virus. The same people will share studies they haven't read, and when someone reads those studies and quotes them back to them to show why they're wrong, they ignore it and act like that study doesn't mean anything.

“A key finding of psychological investigations is that measuring the beliefs in specific conspiracy theories is highly related to beliefs in generic ones (Swami et al., 2010). An example item of such generic conspiracy would be “Evidence of alien contact is being concealed from the public” (Brotherton et al., 2013, p. 4), as opposed to the specific “Area 51 in Nevada, US, is a secretive military base that contains hidden alien spacecraft and/or alien bodies” (Swami et al., 2017, p. 14). As both are agreed upon by respondents, this has led to the conceptualization of a stable individual difference variable—called conspiracist ideation—the generalized belief in conspiracy theories (Swami et al., 2011; Brotherton and Eser, 2015).”


I've said this on the previous page. Conspiracy theories are based on general ideas and talking points. They're bot arrived at by a deep and analytical investigation into the subject matter.

“Another example of a widespread assumption is the belief that vaccinations cause autism in children (Jolley and Douglas, 2017), dating back to a fabricated (and subsequently retracted) scientific paper in The Lancet (Jolley and Douglas, 2017).”


What this is talking about is this study from the discredited Andrew Wakefield. You can read a detailed disection in the BMJ.

“A multitude of studies view conspiracy beliefs as a symptom of an underlying psychological disorder, the prodromal phases of a psychological disorder or the traits associated with them. Amongst those, paranoia (Bruder et al., 2013), paranoid ideation, and schizotypy (Darwin et al., 2011) were prominently found to harbor connections with conspiracy beliefs. Paranoid ideation and schizotypy share similar traits, including suspicion, magical thinking, and odd and unusual beliefs (Barlow and Durand, 2009). In paranoid ideation, people are harboring thoughts that external agents have an intention of hostility toward them; this hostility may be in the form of physical or verbal threats and, relevant for conspiracy beliefs, fearing deception, exploitation, and disloyalty (Freeman et al., 2005; Darwin et al., 2011).”


For reference: Schizotypy refers to traits such as unusual and disorganized patterns of thinking.

I remember being rather paranoid growing up. Looking back, of course. I didn't see that at the time. When in London cash was removed from busses I remember saying I didn't want to be able to be tracked. I used my card all the time, anyway. Also, what a narsassistic and paranoid thing to think.

Growing up, I also had a problem with thinking people were disloyal towards me or not as invested in me as I was in them. There was probably an element of truth in that, but I would get quite internally aggressive and paranoid about it. Disloyalty and being deceived was something which bothered be as a teen. You can see it in the posts of alternative-thinkers on social media. Posts about knowing who their real friends are, posts about being hard done by, posts about friends stabbing them in the back, and posts which aim to bait in praise and support.

“Fear and anxiety were reported as positive predictors of conspiracy beliefs (e.g., Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013). As people are anxious, fear a threatening situation, or have low perceived feelings of control over situations, they tend to conspiracies. Both state and trait anxiety are positive predictors of conspiracy beliefs (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013; Swami et al., 2016a). The need to exert control over one's social environment, operationalized as feelings of control (Leiser et al., 2017; van Prooijen, 2017), desirability of control (Lobato et al., 2014; Rose, 2017) were all stable predictors of conspiracy beliefs. Coupled with the desire to have perceived control over the environment is the general concept of making sense of the world. Such sense making-motivation is central for conspiracy theories, as it provides explanations for events and, most of the time, an entity to blame (van Prooijen and van Dijk, 2014).”


It's not wonder that conspiracy theories always revolve around being controlled, and maleovolent intent by shadowy figures. If you're filled with an anxiety about having no control over life and just being a pawn on a chess board, you're probably more likely to be enticed by a world-view which tells you it's someone else's fault.

“Paranormal belief, a construct related to paranoid ideation and schizotypy, operationalized as the acceptance of processes and phenomena that are scientifically impossible (e.g., precognition, psychokinesis, extra-sensory perception) was positively linked to conspiracy beliefs as well (Darwin et al., 2011). ”


This is kind of what was discussed on the illusory patterns page where conspiracy belief was correlated with the supernatural. In addition to this, it's important to recognise that alternative-thinkers aren't motivated to be truly sceptical or analytical. They claim to be, but they aren't. You could look at it like this: If someone is wrong and says they're right, do they think they're wrong? Of course not. They think they're right. The illogical and scientifically illiterate think they're logical and scientifically literate. It's how we as humans work, unfortunately. I know I fell into that category when I was posting about chemtrails and vaccines.

“Paranormal belief also includes magical, superstitious, and religious thinking (Lindeman and Aarnio, 2006). People with pronounced paranormal belief doubt orthodoxies and scientific knowledge (Ramsay, 2006), and this led to the assumption that if orthodoxies are doubted in one area (such as the belief in ghosts); they are doubted in other areas (such as official explanations of events or catastrophes) as well, thus explaining the path to conspiracy beliefs.”


Again, this is an extention on the correlation between conspiracy adoption and belief in the supernatural. I'm not totally sure on the supernatural mentality because I never got enticed by it. I never believed in ghosts, but I did enjoy shows about mythical animals like Big Foot and Loch Ness. Belief in the supernatural probably takes a relaxed approach to confirmation of information. God made the world in 7 days because the bible says so. Cultures reference sky gods so aliens absolutely visited earth thousands of years ago. Psychics have been active throughout history so they must be real. That's not how proof works, I'm afraid.

“This holds true for the belief in conspiracy theories as well, as participants with susceptibility to conjunction fallacy errors were more likely to believe conspiracies (Brotherton and French, 2014; Dagnall et al., 2017)”


Conjunction fallacy is an inability to distinguish between probability correctly. You can read about it here.

“The role of self-evaluation was also found to be an important link, people with a high amount of narcissism, an exaggerated feeling of self-love, were more prone to believe in conspiracies (Kumareswaran, 2014; Cichocka et al., 2016a). Narcissism is positively associated with paranoid thinking, as narcissists are perceiving the actions of others intentionally targeted against themselves (Fenigstein and Vanable, 1992). Such perceptions, again, are linked to conspiracy beliefs. Self-esteem, the positive self-evaluation without narcissistic components (Paulhus et al., 2004), seems to be negatively associated with conspiracy beliefs. Conspiracies are appealing to people who lack confidence and excess self-promotional characteristics, such as self-esteem (Cichocka et al., 2016a; Galliford and Furnham, 2017).”


Those with self-esteem problems and negative narcassistic characteristics are more likely to believe conspiracy theories. Positive narcasissm or a positive image of self suggests the opposite. People down on their luck or have less of a feeling of forfilment and achievement will probably look to simple easy to understand reasons that explains why life is so hard and rough. I would assume because the world being controlled gives it predictability and the illusion of control. Life in general, is chaotic and illogical. These characteristics describe me when I used to binge watch conspiracy videos.

“Socio-political variables, e.g., political cynicism (Swami et al., 2010; Swami, 2012) and negative attitudes toward authority (Swami et al., 2011; Cichocka et al., 2016b), were investigated. Anomia, the concept that describes the perception that the complexity of modern societies has become unintelligent (Goertzel, 1994; Bruder et al., 2013), was positively associated as well. A high level of anomia is an indicator that a person feels alienation and disaffection from societal systems (Goertzel, 1994) and thus endorses conspiracies—blaming an external agent for their low social-political power. The same association is true for persons who feel alienated because of unemployment or perceived status of their in-group (Uenal, 2016).”


This is exactly what happens. You feel the world is crazy, blind, and stupid for not seeing it. You start to resent them for it because you're looked at as the crazy one. It's a weird self-imposed matrix. I went into the natural-news anti-medicine rabbit hole and started to resent people with genetic illness because it was their fault, all they had to do was eat properly and look up natural cures. It sounds horrible because it is. But that's what the conspiracy mentality does to you. You become disaffected with the non-woke and segregate yourself from them mentally.

“Religious individuals are more likely than non-religious to believe in conspiracy theories (Oliver and Wood, 2014b; Lahrach and Furnham, 2017).”


I don't have much of a comment. I can see this being probable. There's an awful lot of "gays cause natural disasters" rhetoric which comes from the deeply religious. I would however, have to assume that the religion is important. The more magical and fantasy-like the religious beliefs I would assume creates a variability of suseptibility to the conspiracy mentality.

“Political extremism, either to the left or to the right, is associated as an attempt or thinking style, aimed at, once again, making sense of societal events (van Prooijen et al., 2015). Additionally, right-wing authoritarianism was a positive predictor—a political attitude characterized by obedience to an authoritarian leader, a deeply rooted mentality when it comes to traditional societal values, and, at the same time, a distrust against governmental structures (Imhoff and Bruder, 2014; Richey, 2017).”


All I have to say is - Trump and his followers.

“Several studies have stressed the negative relationship between scientific knowledge, rational thinking and conspiracy beliefs. People who are more used to analytic thinking are not as prone to fall for the logical fallacies inherited in conspiracy theories (Wagner-Egger and Bangerter, 2007; Swami et al., 2014; Ballová Mikušková, 2017). Lower intelligence was also associated with conspiracy beliefs (Stieger et al., 2013; Ballová Mikušková, 2017). ”


I didn't know much of anything about philosophy, psychology, and science. On a whim I checked the science

“Multiple meta-regression for the association with openness to experience showed a significant effect (with a negative coefficient) for the proportion of women in the sample, indicating that samples with more males reported stronger positive associations (see Table 3 for full list of coefficients). Furthermore, younger samples and studies outside of Europe were positive predictors of higher associations of openness and conspiracy beliefs.”


As with anything there is nuance to everything. Openness to experience for males has an effect on adoption of conspiracy beliefs. In females it has a negative effect on the adoption of conspiracy beliefs. Younger people are more succeptible, too. This doesn't mean this is the case for everyone, it just means in general this is what the data suggests.

“The reasons why people endorse or believe in conspiracy theories are diverse.”

You can say that again.

“Conspiracies appear to appeal to those who feel disconnected from society, who are unhappy or dissatisfied with their circumstances, who possess a subjective worldview that includes unusual beliefs, experiences and thoughts, and do not feel in control of their life (c.f. Rose, 2017).”


Is this a precursor? Or is this a factor in predicting adoption of conspiracy throries? Personally, I think they help the initial adoption, and the belief in conspiracy theories expands and exaserbates these qualities. It happened to me.

“Furthermore, those with higher levels of clinically relevant traits such as paranoid thought and schizotypy endorse them.”

I can see that being true from my own experience and debating alternative-thinkers on social media.


From the Association For Psychological Science, in a study titled: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. This paper is a general review of the scientific literature on the psychology of conspiracy beliefs.

“they are speculative in that they posit actions that are hidden from public scrutiny, complex in that they postulate the coordination of  multiple  actors,  and  resistant  to  falsification  in  that  they postulate that conspirators use stealth and disinformation to cover up their actions—implying that people who try to debunk conspiracy theories may, themselves, be part of the conspiracy (Lewandowsky et al., 2015).”

I've actually had this myself. I debated a violinist on RF radiation. He claimed multiple times I was an industry shill and trolling his posts, which were sponsored and appeared on my Facebook feed. Resistant to falsification is absolutely true. The conslusion or the precious secret posession, must be preserved and defended. Alternative-thinkers will employ any and all mental gymnastics to acomplish that.


“A related property of conspiracy theories is that they can protect  cherished  beliefs  (e.g.,  vaccination  is  harmful;  climate change is not a serious concern) by casting overwhelmingly  disconfirmatory  evidence  (e.g.,  scientific  findings) as the product of a conspiracy (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013).”

I also find this a lot. Science has a overwhelmingly huge bosy of evidence supporting it, and a very high standard of evidence and proof to verify conclusions. How do you combat this? Science is corrupted and


“research suggests that belief in conspiracy theories is stronger when the motivation to  find  patterns  in  the  environment  is  experimentally  heightened (Whitson & Galinsky, 2008). It is also stronger among people who habitually seek meaning and patterns in  the  environment,  including  believers  in  paranormal  phenomena”

I've already covered this on the human brain page, and the illusory patterns page. I can absolutely see this being true. It aligns with the other research I've reviewed.


“Our analysis suggests that conspiracy theories may satisfy some epistemic motives at the expense of others—for example, by shielding beliefs from uncertainty while being less likely to be accurate. The epistemic drawbacks of conspiracy theories do not seem to be readily apparent to people who lack the ability or motivation  to  think  critically  and  rationally.  Conspiracy  belief is correlated with lower levels of analytic thinking (Swami, Voracek, Stieger, Tran, & Furnham, 2014) and lower  levels  of  education  (Douglas,  Sutton,  Callan,  Dawtry, & Harvey, 2016)”

Again, we've gone over this already. When I used to repeat conspiracy theories, I wasn't educated on critical thinking, science, philosophy, or psychology. I wasn't motivated to actually think critically, and my beliefs didn't correlate together; there wre contradictions.


“causal  explanations serve the need for people to feel safe and secure in their environment and to exert control over the  environment  as  autonomous  individuals  and  as  members  of  collectives  (Tetlock,  2002).”

This very easily fits with the pattern-recognition evolutionary trait I wrote about on the human brain page. It allows us to make quick decisions to survive threats. It's inbuilt into our brains and worked great in our evolution for survival, but now in this day and age it's a hinderance.


“Other research indicates that conspiracy belief is strongly related to lack of sociopolitical control or lack of psychological empowerment (Bruder et al., 2013). Experiments have shown that compared with baseline conditions, conspiracy belief is heightened when people feel unable to control outcomes and is reduced when their sense of control is affirmed (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015).”

This correlates with the paper above. I felt this way and I see it in others.


“Scholars have suggested that conspiracy theories valorize the self and the in-group by allowing blame for negative outcomes to be attributed to others. Thus, they may help to uphold the image  of  the  self  and  the  in-group  as  competent  and  moral but as sabotaged by powerful and unscrupulous others.”

Does this sound familiar? "We've done a great job, a terrific job. We've done more in this administration than any other before it. But the fake news won't tell you that. The Democrats and the fake news are lying about it, and everyone knows it. People love me."

Trump and his supporters are this exact description. No matter how badly Trump does in office, no matter how horribly he handles a situation, not matter what he says, his supports will always find ways for it not mean anything. He is under attack and the world would know how great he is if it wasn't for the fake news and the crooken Democrats. He is the king pigeon, the king of alternative-thinkers. Trump in of himself is a wealthy billionaire elite heading the most powerful nation on Earth in one of it's two main parties. Somehow, he's the underdog, he's the little guy, he's oppressed by the system. Extreme mental gymnastics.


“These findings suggest that conspiracy theories may be recruited defensively, to relieve the self or in-group from a sense of culpability for their disadvantaged position.  In  keeping  with  this  defensive  motivation,  conspiracy belief is associated with narcissism—an inflated view of oneself that requires external validation and is linked to paranoid ideation (Cichocka, Marchlewska, & Golec  de  Zavala,  2016).  Conspiracy  belief  is  also  predicted by collective narcissism—a belief in the in-group’s greatness paired with a belief that other people do not appreciate it enough (Cichocka, Marchlewska, Golec de Zavala, & Olechowski, 2016)”

Copy and paste the above. You only have to look at Trump and his suppors to see the exact same behaviour in alternative-thinkers. The overlap (i presume) is quite substantial.


“A feature of conspiracy theories is their negative, distrustful representation of other people and groups. Thus, it is plausible that they are not only a symptom but also a cause of the feelings of alienation and anomie—a feeling of personal unrest and  lack  of  understanding  of  the  social  world—with  which they are correlated (e.g., Abalakina-Paap et al., 1999). Experiments show that exposure to conspiracy theories  decreases  trust  in  governmental  institutions,  even if the conspiracy theories are unrelated to those institutions (Einstein & Glick, 2015).”

I mentioned this above. Conspiracy theories probably require a specific mentality to allow their adoption, but those traist become amplified the more the person is submerged in the conspiracy mentality. Whether the mentality is helpful or harmful for their mental wellbeing is irrelevant.

“they are generally speculative and contrarian, represent the public as ignorant and at the mercy of unaccountable powers, and impute highly anti-social and cynical motives to other individuals.”

Contrarian, yes. Their mantra is "question everything". It should be "blanket reject authority and believe alternative talking points without questioning them." The anti-social effect and cynicism I've touched on above with my resentment of the unwoke when I was heavily submerged in the conspiracy mentality.


From Hogrefe's Social Psychology, in a study titled: “I Know Things They Don’t Know!” The Role of Need for Uniqueness in Belief in Conspiracy Theories.

This is a study I've been very curious to read since I heard about it.

“Abelson (1986) goes further by formulating the theoretical     perspective that “beliefs are like possessions.” This idea is illustrated by examining popular linguistic expressions using a     belief-possession metaphor, for example, “to acquire a belief” or “to hold a belief” (Abelson, 1986, p. 230). Indeed, building on Lakoff and Johnson (1980/2002), the metaphors are the basis of our conceptual system, which in turn, define our everyday realities. Hence, the belief-possession metaphor may serve as a hint to the idea of beliefs as possessions. Finally, to the same extent that people can express their uniqueness through their unique possessions, people who hold unique beliefs can demonstrate their unusual taste, as Abelson (1986) suggests, by saying that people who cultivate original views about the world convey to others the special nature of their personality.”

While this can apply to anyone who doesn't think openly and critically, it's especially present in alternative-thinkers. It's your opinion, it's your truth, and it must be defended at all costs. I said above that the conspiracy mentality is a sort of self-imposed matrix. What better way to become unique than to adopt a world-view where you're part of a collective who are unplugged from the matrix who see through the lies. You know the truth and are surrounded by the blind and distracted. You hold secret knowledge and you know how the world really works.

Personally, it might sound weird, but to me sometimes talking about conspiracies to people who don't know about them was sort fo like saying "hey, look at this super interesting think I know about." It simultaneously makes you incredibly unique, but you own that belief, giving your something valuable to possess.

“Moreover, conspiracy theories rely on narratives that refer to secret knowledge (Mason,     2002) or information, which, by definition, is not accessible to  everyone, otherwise it would not be a secret and it would be a well-known fact. People who believe in conspiracy theories can feel “special,” in a positive sense, because they may feel that they are more informed than others about important social and political events.”

This is just an extention to what I wrote above. You hold secret knowledge. Not only that, but it's your secret knowledge, and that makes you very unique.


Stress and anxiety have also been examined in a paper from the journal Personality and Individual Differences titled Putting the stress on conspiracy theories: Examining associations between psychological stress, anxiety, and belief in conspiracy theories.

“In particular, psychological stress and anxiety have been identified as factors that are related to belief in conspiracy theories. This perspective stems from the idea that conspiracy theories provide simplified,causal explanations for distressing events (Hofstadter, 1966) and conceptualises conspiracy theories as neutral, rational narratives of the world (Nefes, 2015).”


Conspiracy theories always flare up in times of anxiety and stress. In times of major disaster like 9/11, the London bombings, the MH-17 passenger plane being shot down oiver Ukraine, and especially during times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic which I am currently in right now.


“This perspective also suggests that conspiracy theories help to regulate levels of acute stress. That is, by reinstalling a sense of order, control, and predictability following a distressing external threat, conspiracy theories help individuals to regulate their own negative emotions, restore a sense of agency, and maintain self-esteem (Robins & Post, 1997).”


Interestingly when lockdown started for the first time, 5G conspiracies were everywhere. So many people were sharing conspiracy videos about it being a weapon, or even being COVID-19. It was rampant on social media with a flood of people selling 5G protection crystals on Facebook. There were appeals and petitions left, right, and center. Then it went away. No one’s mentioned it since. Not a single person - even those I know who were extremely vocal. 


They all just kind of forgot about it. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because the COVID-19 pandemic is creating more stress and anxiety as it’s directly affecting people. It’s incredibly hard to try to prove this viral pandemic is the result of radiowaves so instead the conspiracies are about masks not working and the virus being the common cold. It works to minimise the danger by saying the virus is a teddy bear, or doesn’t exist in the first place. Everyone just forgot 5G was even a thing. 


“distressing experiences (e.g., a perceived lack of control, subjective uncertainty)heighten the tendency to perceive patterns in unrelated stimuli(Whitson & Galinsky, 2008) and to make dispositional inferences about others (Sullivan, Landau, & Rothschild, 2010), which promotes conspiracist ideation (van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2013). Stressful situations also increase the tendency to think less analytically (Starcke &Brand, 2012), which in turn promotes belief in conspiracy theories(Swami et al., 2014).”


I’ve seen this first-hand over 2020. When lockdown first happened during the pandemic, 5G conspiracies were everywhere. People who aren’t your normal alternative-thinkers were sharing very misleading conspiracy theories. Then restrictions were lifted and we could go out and see people outside etc. The conspiracies died down. Then the threat level was raised quite recently around October, which imposed tougher restrictions which saw a huge resurgence of conspiracy theories online. They’re coping with the lack of control and stress by saying the virus doesn’t exist and it’s all for the purposes of control. 


“In terms of educational qualifications, 38.4% had completed secondary schooling, 5.2% were still in full-time education, 42.6% had an undergraduate degree, 13.1% had a postgraduate degree, and 0.7% handsome other qualification.”


This is the sample of the study. They were also mostly white between 20 and 78, and had slightly more women than men.


“younger participants were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories,r=−.15,p= .002, but there was no significant correlation between belief in conspiracy theories and subjective social status,r=−.06,p= .247.”


This is purely anecdotal, but I was an alternative-thinker when I was a young adult and very naive about the world and how things worked. I didn’t understand psychology, or philosophy, or science. 


“As seen, stronger belief in conspiracy theories was significantly associated with more stressful life events in the last 6 months, greater perceived stress in the last month, and higher trait anxiety.”


Again, I’ve seen this perfectly during the pandemic. People who have been clearly having a really bad patch of mental health with no work to do have been absolutely churning out the conspiracy theories.


“The second step of the regression was also significant,F(7, 412) = 7.88,pb.001, Adj.ΔR2=.09.Of the variables entered into the model, the only significant predictors were stressful life events, B = .22, SE = .04, ß = .28,t=5.61,pb.001, age, B =−.02, SE = .01, ß =−.13,t=−2.77,p= .006,and perceived stress, B = .26, SE = .12, ß = .12,t= 2.21,p= .028.”


Stressful life events and perceived stress. That’s our base factor going forward, then.


“Our Findings suggested that two separate indices of psychological stress were positively associated with belief in conspiracy theories once the effects of subjective social status and respondents had been accounted for. Conversely, indices of anxiety were not significantly associated with belief in conspiracy theories once all other effects had been taken into account. Broadly speaking, our findings are consistent with theoretical discussions of the role that conspiracy theories play, particularly in terms of providing rational narratives of the world (Nefes, 2015)”


I keep going back to the pandemic because it’s such a good example. They conspiracy theories blow up in times of tighter restrictions and uncertainty. They eased off when restrictions were loosened and people had some kind of a normal life to live.


“Major world events, particularly those that are traumatic andemotive, are known to increase levels of stress (e.g.,Goenjian et al.,2000  ). In addition to being stressful, such events also increase feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and existential threat (van Prooijen &Jostmann, 2013). In such a climate, some individuals may engage in sense-making processes aimed at restoring individual agency and a belief that the world is orderly and predictable (van Prooijen & Acker,2015 ”


Lockdown is unlawful. It’s all about control. There is no virus. Masks don’t work. It’s a chinese hoax. It’s the common cold. It’s 5G. These aren’t the result of objective reasoning, but are born partly from a need for order and rationalisation in times of stress. 


“By simplifying and by linking a series of events in relation to its supposed causes and effects, conspiracy theories may offer seemingly coherent explanations for distressing phenomena.”


Common phrases are “simple as that”, or “FACT” - especially in all caps. People want simple answers to complicated problems. They want the quick answer to make sense of the world.


“an individual experiencing stressful life events may begin to engage in cognitive patterns (e.g., seeing patterns in unrelated stimuli, making dispositional inferences about others;Sullivan et al., 2010; Whitson & Galinsky, 2008) that promote conspiracist ideation. Thus, stressful intra-individual life events may sometimes lead to a tendency to adopt a conspiracist mindset. Once this worldview has become entrenched, other conspiratorial ideas are more easily assimilated and reinforced (Wood, Douglas, & Sutton, 2012).”


This is a running theme. Psychological factors such as stress and sense-making play a role in conspiracy belief adoption, but also act as reinforcement later on and increase the conspiracy mentality. 


“Alternatively, it is not stress that is driving our findings, but rather threats to a sense of control (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015). That is, in the aftermath of repeated distressing events, it is possible that some individuals may seek out conspiracist explanations that reinstall a sense of order or control, which in turn restore a sense of agency(Robins & Post, 1997).”


The pandemic is a perfect example. When tighter restrictions are in place, people start with the “it doesn’t exist, it’s all about control” conspiracy theories. It returns that sense of agency as described which minimises the virus and empowers the individual.


“it is possible that assimilating a conspiracy theory increases cognitive load or negative affect, which in turn increases stress and anxiety. Future work would do well to more carefully unpack direction of causation in future work.”


I could see this being true. For me when I used to parrot conspiracy theories, they did make me more negative and suspicious. This made me think I was being objective but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Conspiracies made me more cynical and suspicious, which I think is reasonable to say increased my susceptibility to more conspiracy theories. 


From a paper studying suseptibility of people believeing conspireacy theories to the conjunction fallacy from Applied Social Psychology titled: Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Susceptibility to the Conjunction Fallacy.

The conjunction fallacy is simply boiled down to not understanding the order of probability by assuming specific circumstances are more likely than generic ones.

Or to quoite the author:

"The conjunction fallacy is a specific error of probabilistic reasoning whereby people overestimate the likelihood of co‐occurring events."

Let's get into the content:

"More generally, exposure to conspiracy theories is associated with decreased civic engagement (Butler, Koopman, & Zimbardo, 1995; Jolley & Douglas, 2013) and, in some cases, prejudice, radicalisation and violence (Bartlett & Miller, 2010; Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, & Wójcik, 2013; Swami, 2012)."

This is absolutely the case as I've seen, both during my time as someone with a strong conspiracy mentality, and observing many others who I now debate online. They are disconnected from society outside of the bounds of the woke. The sheep are almost like a lost cause and there's a simoltaneous dehumanised viewpoing of they get what they deserver from being so ignorant, while playing the white knight and caring about the people being controlled by the puppet masters. Conspiracy theories can often involve groups of people such as in WWII and conspiracies about the Jews to dehumanise them. Prejudice, radicalisation, and violence always seem to follow the heavily endocrinated.

"According to this heuristic, mundane events may have mundane causes, but significant events require significant causes. This bias can be explained in terms of the representativeness heuristic: the automatic assumption that ‘like causes (or is caused by) like’ (Kahneman & Tversky, 1972; Teigen, 2004)."

Again, this is pretty on the mark. Whether you believe in 9/11 being an inside job or not, or whether you believe this and that - the simple solution is always looked at as impossible by some, as the explanation isn't as grand as the outcome.

"a conjunction cannot be more probable than one of its constituents, because the former is necessarily a more restrictive set of possibilities than the latter"

Here's where the pitfall comes in. People with a strong conspiracy mentality will fall into this trap of going right for the less statistically probable scenario because their mindset defaults to "that looks fishy, something must be going on". It's a mindset which goes right to nefarious intent which might be good for a detective movie, but so so much for being objective in the real world.

"Using several variations of the Linda scenario, Tversky and Kahneman (1983) found that typically between 50% and 90% of participants committed the conjunction fallacy."

Here's the thing - this fallacy is easy to comit. I didn't even know what it was until I started reading the phychology research behind the conspiracy mentality. I feel like I'm fairly knowledgeable about philosophy in terms of fallacies, and even I hadn't heard of this. We as a society don't know these things so it's hard to avoid that which you don't know.

"The effect appears to be strongest when the conjunction suggests a motive or causal relationship (Nestler, 2008; Tversky & Kahneman, 1983)."

This just relates back to the nefarious intent I said above. It does also feed into other phychology points I wrote about earlier such as making sense of unknown situations.

"A significant relationship was reported between belief in the paranormal and susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy. Participants who indicated stronger paranormal belief committed more conjunction errors on the paranormal‐themed items and also on neutral items. The finding was replicated by Rogers et al. (2011)."

Paranomal belief and the conspiracy mentality aren't that disconnected. They're rather similar in some of the underlying factors that allow the adoption of belief in the face of more probably explanations. It has a lot to do with complex psychology and everyone's diferent, but it seems that there are common threads which offer some kind of an explanation.

"These findings suggest that paranormal believers are especially prone to the conjunction fallacy and that susceptibility to the fallacy is to some extent domain‐general, affecting all conjunctive judgements regardless of context (paranormal or otherwise)."

I can see that. There is a degree of overlap with conspiracies, political falsehoods, paranomal belief, and general misinformation in general. Maybe it sometimes comes down to not being intelligent. Some people just aren't. Maybe not in other cases. It's not a simple thing to analyse, but what we can say is this fallacy is commited more across the board of subjects by people who believe in the paranormal.

"Believers appear to look beyond ‘mere coincidence’ and instead attribute an underlying causal relationship to co‐occurring events"

Here's where the overlap is with paranormal believ and conspiracy theories. I have my own views and opinions on religion which I won't get into, as that isn't the point of this website, however, I see religion in part as a paranormal belief. I see this behaviour specially prevelant in religious people. Maybe it's my confirmation bias but I don't think so.

"The imagined causal relationship adds to the subjective representativeness of conjunctive events, making them appear more probable than the component events (Nestler, 2008; Rogers et al., 2009; Tversky & Kahneman, 1983). For instance, if a person prone to perceiving separate events as causally related were to have a dream about an old friend only to run into the same person the next day, they may attribute the experience to an underlying paranormal cause."

I've already talked about pattern recognition and it's problems. We have many underlying evolutionarily learned behaviours which one left us alive, but now are a detriment. A lot of people allow themselves to think in this sort of stupid natural brain which isn't helpful for nuanced and objective reasoning.

"A general characteristic of conspiracy theories is the presumption that ostensibly unrelated events are causally related by a conspiracist narrative (Keeley, 1999). That is, disparate details surrounding an event are woven together and attributed to the machinations of a conspiracy."

Everything is a puzzle piece that has to fit together. Everything happens for a reason and everything is conencted. While people putting together conspiracy theories, my past self included, think they're putting together a secret and complicated puzzle through objective free-thinking, what they're actually doing is inventing puzzle pieces and jamming them together to make the picture they want to see.

"The tendency to perceive conjunctive events as having an underlying causal relationship may make conspiracist explanations appear more subjectively representative of events in general and thus more subjectively probable than alternative explanations."

Everything is connected. Or in other words: I am connecting  everything together. This is the heart of the conjunction fallacy. The causal conenctions are in of themselves a reinforcement of the connection. I can see this absolutely being a part of the reason why conspiracy theories keep going strong. Add in confirmation bias and group-think bias and you've got a receipe for a self-created conspiracy that circulated around that group. The more people that believe it, somehow the more likely the belief is. It's an effective feedback loop.

"As an example, ‘Patrick works for a pharmaceutical company testing the efficacy and side‐effects of some of the drugs they manufacture. He discovers that one of their widely available over‐the‐counter drugs is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.’ Participants rate the likelihood that (i) Patrick's data were lost after an IT failure affecting his computer; (ii) Patrick is taken off the project; and (iii) Patrick's data were lost after an IT failure affecting his computer, and Patrick is taken off the project. Thus, the conjunctive response option could imply a causal narrative in which the computer failure and Patrick's removal from the project reflect an intentional cover‐up orchestrated by Patrick's superiors to conceal the damaging evidence."

Nefarious intent will have you thinking the third is more likely and that part one and two are causally related. There's no way of knowing that and to assume otherwise isn't objective one bit.

"‘Josh has a doctorate in engineering and has been inventing products and gadgets in his spare time for several years. After patenting a few unsuccessful products, Josh is now on the verge of perfecting a device which will increase the fuel efficiency of any car by 500%.’ The response options were (i) the CEOs of several major petrol companies hold a meeting in which they discuss the implications of Josh's invention; (ii) Josh is found dead in his home before patenting the invention; and (iii) the CEOs of several major petrol companies hold a meeting in which they discuss the implications of Josh's invention, and Josh is found dead in his home before patenting the invention."

Same point applies. You have no idea whether he was murdered, comitted suicide, or died of natural underlying causes. He could have had a legitimate accident, or been murdered by a thief who broke in. The car company might have discussed in the meeting how to match his fuel efficiency technology, ordiscussing whether to focus on a different area of the market. You don't know, but the nefarious intent assumption has you comitting the conjunction fallacy.

"A large proportion (69.2%) of the sample made at least one conjunction error for paranormal items (range = 0–8; M = 2.04), a slightly greater proportion (76.9%) for conspiracy items (range = 0–8; M = 3.01) and a greater proportion still (87.9%) for neutral items (range = 0–8; M = 3.12)."

It's an easy fallacy to fall into. I used to make it all the time. Conspiracies kind of rely on invented connections.

"Conspiracist ideation correlated significantly with susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy overall and individually in all three domains."

I am not shocked.

"consistent with previous findings (e.g. Tversky & Kahneman, 1983), level of highest qualification in maths, statistics and/or psychology did not correlate significantly with number of conjunction errors made [r (89) = .16, p = .14], and so, this was not controlled for in subsequent analyses."

Education doesn't make you immune to this. Everyone who is unaware of this fallacy is able to comit it. It'san interesting find to say that education in these very areas like psychology and statistics doesn't decrease your chances of falling into this trap by a significant amount. Never take your education for granted - we're all evolved apes at the end of the day with over 100, 000 years of leaned evolutionary behaviour lurking in our brains.

"Importantly, the present findings suggest that there may be a stronger, more reliable relationship between susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy and conspiracist ideation; people who indicated stronger endorsement of various popular conspiracy theories committed more conjunction fallacy errors across all three conjunction contexts."

I am again, shocked.

"participants on the whole made fewer errors on paranormal‐themed items as compared with neutral or conspiracy‐themed items. This implies that, in general, contextual factors can influence the strength of conjunction biases."

It makes sense. If you're invested in conspiracies, you might not have the same strength of biases in the paranormal for example. There is an element of overlap, but they aren't intrinciaslly connected, either.

"Somewhat unexpectedly, there was no difference in conjunction error rate between neutral and conspiracy‐themed items—both invoked more conjunction errors than paranormal items. A possible explanation for this pattern of results is that paranormal explanations clearly violate common understandings of reality, and so, people are more hesitant to adopt a paranormal attribution (see Lupfer & Layman, 1996). Allegations of conspiracy, on the other hand, do not contradict the laws of physics. Most conspiracy theories depart from reality in more subtle ways, such as in postulating preternaturally competent conspirators (Bale, 2007; Keeley, 1999)."

I don't have much to add. That's a perfect summary of why the results might be different.

"Paranormal believers demonstrated a consistently greater rate of conjunction violations as compared with nonbelievers across all three conjunction item types, not only paranormal items. Similarly, the correlations between conspiracism and each of the conjunction event types did not significantly differ in size; that is, conspiracist beliefs were associated with more conjunction errors consistently across all conjunction item types—the effect was not limited to conspiratorial items."

This is the meat and potatoes of this paper - if you have the conspiracy mentality, you're more likely to comit the conjunction fallacy. This explains in part why people with the conspiracy mentality can be so mislead by politics and social issues.

"It does not seem to be the case that some unique feature of conspiracist narratives preferentially invokes the fallacy in conspiracy believers. Rather, it seems that individuals who are prone to making conjunction errors in general are more accepting of conspiracy theories, perhaps because such theories often rely on a confluence of events being subsumed under a singular narrative."

With a lot of these psychology findings, it's quite likely in my opinion that while these factors play a role in conspiracy adoption, they increase over time which reinforce those very same beliefs. It's like being sucked down a drain. You spin around the outside which sucks you in, and once you're in you fall deeper and deeper, faster and faster.

"The significant correlation between conspiracist ideation and paranormal beliefs observed in the present study, as well as previous research (Darwin et al., 2011; Newheiser et al., 2011; Swami et al., 2011), adds support to the idea that similar factors give rise to both kinds of anomalous belief."

Nothing to add here. I wrote this earlier.

"Total number of conjunction errors correlated significantly with GCB scores [r(93) = .29, p < .01]; stronger endorsement of conspiracy theories was associated with a greater number of conjunction errors. Looking at conjunction vignette types individually, GCB scores correlated significantly (and positively) with both neutral [r(93) = .21, p < .05] and conspiracist conjunction errors [r(93) = .30, p < .01]."

GCB stands for "General Conspiracy Belief". It's a scale used in psychology research for measuring belief in conspiracy theories. It's the data showing what I quoted above that believers of conspiracies make more conjunction fallacy errors.

"The main effect of conspiracy belief group was significant [F(1, 93) = 5.62; p < .05; η2p = .06], with believers making slightly more conjunction errors in total (M = 8.61; SD = 3.72) than nonbelievers (M = 6.78; SD = 3.88)."

Same thing in a different format. Still - non-believers are still suseptible to this. It's a common trap.

Here are some extracts from the final part of the paper:

"As in study 1, the current study found that people who display stronger conspiracist ideation tend to make more conjunction fallacy errors than people who are more sceptical about conspiracy theories."

"In total, these findings add support to the idea that conspiracist beliefs are a product, in part, of a domain‐general greater susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy and thus perhaps representativeness heuristic in general."

​​"Crucially, individuals who indicated stronger endorsement of specific popular conspiracy theories (Study 1), as well as generic conspiracist ideas (Study 2), committed a greater number of conjunction violations than people who indicated lower conspiracist ideation. This trend was largely unaffected by context."

This just echoes the points above, but in a more summaried layout.​​


"Real conspiracies take place in the world routinely. The kinds of claims commonly referred to as ‘conspiracy theories’ diverge from real, mundane conspiracies in more subtle ways, such as in postulating preternaturally powerful and evil conspirators, ignoring more plausible explanations and distorting contrary evidence (Aaronovitch, 2009; Bale, 2007; Barkun, 2003; Brotherton, 2013; Keeley, 1999)."

Yes. Nothing to add.

"One possible explanation for greater susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy among people who believe conspiracy theories is that, similar with those who believe in the paranormal (e.g. Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985; Bressan, 2002; Brugger & Taylor, 2003), conspiracy believers have a biased conception of randomness, according to which coincidences are rarely mere chance occurrences."

Everything is connected. Nothing happens for a reason. It's like a mantra at this point.

"Conspiracy theories often hinge on the idea that many disparate and ostensibly unrelated facts are in fact causally related by a conspiratorial plot. Thus, the tendency to perceive such conjunctions as being typical or representative may imbue such theories with plausibility."

It's like what I said earlier. Seeing the picture you want to see, taking puzzle pieces and jamming them together. It's a general and overview-based belief system. Focus on specific points and you see the puzzle joins that have been mashed together and you can take them apart.

"Yet it is unclear whether susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy causes or conversely is caused by endorsement of conspiracy theories. Given that susceptibility does not appear to be domain‐specific and that another product of the representativeness heuristic, the proportionality bias, has been implicated in the formation of conspiracist beliefs (LeBoeuf & Norton, 2012; Leman & Cinnirella, 2007), the former seems plausible."

"a reciprocal process may occur, whereby a biased conception of randomness predisposes an individual towards accepting conspiracy theories, which reinforces a worldview in which ostensibly unrelated events have hidden causal connections."

As I said earlier, it is both a factor in the adoption of belief, as well as a reinforcement once the belief is adopted.

"Under conditions of uncertainty, people's statistical intuitions are often at odds with objective laws of probability. In particular, people often misperceive the co‐occurrence of the ostensibly unrelated events as being more likely than the occurrence of either component alone. The current findings suggest that people who endorse conspiracy theories more strongly are particularly susceptible to this ‘conjunction fallacy’. Taken together with previous research, this provides further evidence that conspiracy theories, similar with other anomalous beliefs, are associated with reasoning biases and heuristics."


From a study from the journal Personality and Individual Differences titled Psychological entitlement predicts noncompliance with the health guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic, they studied whether people higher in psychological entitlement were less likely to adhere to public health measures, and think the virus was overblown. In other words, they studied whether psychological entitlement had people exhibiting aspects of the conspiracy mentality.


“We argue that psychological entitlement is an important personality trait to study in relation to following the health guidelines of the pandemic, as people higher in psychological entitlement are more likely to have high expectations for good outcomes, a lack of concern about others, and a distrust of authority figures, which could affect their perceptions of threat, their perceptions of the benefits of following the guidelines, and their responses to the cues to action.”


Distrust for authority is a good gateway to conspiracy theories if you’re someone with the psychology that predisposes you to the conspiracy mentality. Lack of concern about others is also echoed in what I see in covid hoaxers and anti-vaxxers: “I have an immune system, I’ll be ok” - It’s not about you. Then they go on to expand on psychological entitlement:


“Individuals high in psychological entitlement desire, expect, and feel that they deserve benefits (e.g., more money, a promotion, or a better grade) without concern for their actual level of merit (Fisk, 2010; Grubbs & Exline, 2016). Past research has shown that individuals relatively higher in psychological entitlement (hereafter referred to as entitled people/individuals, for brevity's sake) are more likely to ignore instructions such as how to complete tasks (Zitek & Jordan, 2019).”


This grabbed me because the underlying psychology of something like this would help to explain some pretty important things like rejection of official explanations, a seeking for alternatives, and ultimately, the mentality of alternative-thinkers. I do feel while reading this I used to be rather entitled. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child or something. Regardless, since settling down with my wife-to-be, that has greatly dimmed (it’s still there, though). 


“Specifically, people are more likely to follow health guidelines when they are concerned about personal risk (Chon & Park, 2019), when they are concerned about their effect on others (Paek et al., 2008), and when they trust the authority figures who have given them the health advice (Krishna, 2018). Entitled individuals may not share these beliefs, thereby reducing their compliance with the pandemic health guidelines.”


Trust in authority figures. Science advisers, experts, public health institutions - these are all seen as authority figures telling you what’s good for you. Alternative-thinkers do not like this at all. It wouldn’t be outlandish to assume that psychological entitlement is a key underlying psychology trait that predisposes people to the conspiracy mentality.


They start by outlining what they expect to find given the existing knowledge on entitled individuals.


“First, entitled people might not follow the COVID-19 health guidelines because they do not believe the virus poses a personal risk to them. Entitled individuals have high expectations for their lives (Grubbs & Exline, 2016), even expecting good luck (Zitek & Jordan, 2021), which may lead them to believe that they will not get sick. Furthermore, because entitled individuals demand special treatment (Fisk & Neville, 2011) and have extremely high standards for other people (i.e., other-oriented perfectionism; Nealis et al., 2015; Trumpeter et al., 2006)”


Demanding special treatment is something I’ve seen a lot of people exhibiting during the pandemic. They refuse to wear a mask, socially distance, and think the rules don’t apply to them but will be extremely vocal when restrictions tighten and say it’s all a corrupt method of control, despite being warned that very thing would happen if cases rose.


“Second, entitled individuals may not follow the health guidelines because they are not particularly concerned about the welfare of others. Entitled people tend to be more selfish (Zitek et al., 2010). They focus on what is good for them and do not worry about how their behavior may harm others (e.g., Daddis & Brunell, 2015; Malhotra & Gino, 2011; Neville & Fisk, 2019; Rose & Anastasio, 2014; Snow et al., 2001). They are less likely to be empathetic, be socially responsible, or pursue compassionate goals (Campbell et al., 2004; Moeller et al., 2009; Watson & Morris, 1991).”


Repeating what I said above: covid-hoaxers and anti-vaxxers anyways say “I have an immune system, I’ll be OK”. Even after having it explained to them that it’s also about protecting others, it’s as if they haven’t heard it, because they defaut back immediately to “I have an immune system” as if protecting others didn’t enter their minds at all. They think in terms of themselves very often - nothing exists beyond their own personal world.

“Third, entitled individuals might not follow the health guidelines because they think that the threat of the virus is overblown. Although there have been many messages about the seriousness of the virus, entitled people might not trust these messages, as entitlement is negatively correlated with trust (Pryor et al., 2008). Many messages about the virus come from authority figures, but entitled individuals often view their authority figures negatively (e.g., Chowning & Campbell, 2009; Harvey et al., 2014; Harvey & Martinko, 2009). And because entitlement is related to political conservatism (Hatemi & Fazekas, 2018), entitled individuals might be especially likely to disbelieve messages from liberal politicians, as entitled people hold more negative views of outgroups (Anastasio & Rose, 2014).”


Science is seen (unfortunately) as a politically liberal thing in parts of the world. They don’t trust science because they don’t understand it, and they don’t understand it because they never tried. It’s just some liberal propaganda tool made up by puppets of the government - or so I’ve heard some say. I’ve already shown research showing that conservatism is associated with increased conspiracy mentality - this might be the mechanism as to why.


“If, for these reasons, entitled individuals believe that the claims about the virus have been exaggerated, they might therefore think that the health guidelines are unnecessary, an unfair imposition, and simply an attempt at controlling them. Entitled individuals do not like to be controlled (Rose & Anastasio, 2014), and they are quick to perceive injustices (e.g., Harvey et al., 2014; McCullough et al., 2003; see Grubbs & Exline, 2016, for a summary). Thus, they might not be persuaded by the calls to take action during the pandemic.”


I’d agree with that. That absolutely seems to be the case. I don’t have anything to add.


Study 1 results


“Thus, as predicted, entitled people reported less engagement in behaviors such as washing their hands more often and social distancing. The relationship between entitlement and noncompliance was reduced when controlling for agreeableness, but it remained significant”


Agreeableness (one of the big five personality traits) has an effect on adhering to public health guidelines, which is somewhat expected. Still having a significant effect after adjusting for it shows entitlement is a relevant factor.


“Specifically, entitled people were less likely to be concerned about getting sick, less likely to be concerned about others, and more likely to believe the threat of the virus was overblown, three sets of beliefs that were in turn correlated with ignoring the health guidelines. Thus, these beliefs may explain why entitled individuals refuse to comply with the health guidelines”


It also lines up perfectly with conspiracy theories circulating right now. Everyone can believe conspiracy theories, they just don’t know it.


Study 2 results


“Consistent with our hypothesis and replicating the previous study, entitled individuals were again less likely to say they were engaging in behaviors such as social distancing. All individual compliance items were significantly correlated with entitlement except mask wearing”


Confirmation from a second study is important - it shows the first study’s results are more likely to be accurate, or at the very least, not down to chance.


“Entitled people were less likely to think they would get sick, more likely to think they could handle getting sick, less likely to be concerned about harming others, and more likely to believe the threat of the virus was overblown, sets of beliefs that were in turn all related to ignoring the health guidelines.”


Perfect mirrors of conspiracy theories I’ve seen circulating right now.


Study 3 results


“we found a significant interaction between entitlement and the self-image condition (ratings before or after the prompt), but the interaction was in a different direction than predicted. There was a stronger relationship between entitlement and ignoring the guidelines after participants read the self-image prompt. Put another way, for people low in entitlement (1 SD below M), reading the prompt led them to increase their adherence to the guidelines (b = 0.09, p < .001), but for people high in entitlement (1 SD above M), the prompt had no effect (b = −0.02, p = .374), and for people very high in entitlement (2 SD above M), the prompt was somewhat counterproductive (b = −0.08, p = .058). The mixed model results were similar when controlling for political orientation and agreeableness, but the remaining effect of entitlement was weaker”


It makes sense. If you tell an entitled alternative-thinker “you’ll be admired for doing this” or “you’ll be looked down on for not doing that” they’re gonna resist and do the opposite because their outlook of the world is based on being a contrarian to authority and society. If you tell them the earth is a globe, some are going to say it’s flat. If you tell people vaccines prevent disease, some will say they don’t work at all. It’s a mentality fundamentally rooted in denialism and contrarianism.


“Thus, counter to our predictions, telling participants about what others would think of them did not encourage the more entitled people to be more likely to follow the health guidelines. It is possible that the more entitled people thought that our prompt was simply more propaganda from people who were making “too big of a deal” about the virus.”


I can see that. It fits and it makes sense. The parallels between psychological entitlement fits so well with conspiracy theories and alternative-thinkers, that if you just replaced “psychological entitlement” with “conspiracy mentality” the study still makes perfect sense.


It does seem that entitlement is akey psychological trait which influences other factors of people’s psychology. I dare say there are more factors preceding entitlement, as there are factors succeeding it.

This is the end of the conspiracy mentality section. Next we enter the realm of philosophy.

Next Page: Philosophy - An Honest Search for Truth


What can we learn from the psychological literature on the psychology of alternative-thinkers? This also expands out to adoption of singular conspiracy theories or increased susceptibility to the conspiracy mentality from people who are just normal people who might fall victim to their own psychology.


It’s clear that stressful life events and perceived stress plays a role, as does a perceived lack of autonomy or control. A need for uniqueness and individuality is a running theme both in research and what I’ve observed. Trait anxiety is also associated with conspiracy belief. If you feel like you lack control, then you try to regain that somewhere else, and conspiracy theories allow that by saying you aren’t without control, but are being controlled. Never fear, because you see through it and are resisting.


It’s also clear that conspiracy theories allow for stressful or complicated problems to be minimised, ignored, or oversimplified to where an explanation is easier to obtain when the real answer is complicated, or there might not even be an answer.


Susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy is higher among those with the conspiracy mentality, showing a lack of understanding of how probability works. Lower analytical thinking is also related to conspiracy belief, as is lower levels of education. The conjunction research paper has shown that education can also not play a role as students of mathematics, psychology, and philosophy all committed the conjunction fallacy atleast once.


It has been shown in research that narcissism is a factor in conspiracy belief adoption as the world is conspiring against you and that you are the target of worldwide conspiracy. I was, and still am plagued by narcissistic tendencies, but I have self-reflected enough to be conscious of it and now correct myself when I notice that manifesting. Adding onto this, negative self-esteem is also associated with adoption of the conspiracy mentality. A disaffection from society and a distrust in government are also both products of, exacerbated by, and predictors of conspiracy belief.

It has also been found that people higher in psychological entitlement are more likely to not comply with public health guidelines during the current covid pandemic, which in turn has them exhibiting striking parallel behaviour to those with the conspiracy mentality. This likely ties into narcissistic tendencies as described above. Whether this is a product of narcissism, or leads to it, is unclear to me. Maybe they're both products of other underlying psychology.


Additionally, paranoia and schizotypy are also contributing factors in the adoption of conspiracy beliefs, as is a dissociation with society and societal structures. I did notice myself becoming quite paranoid during my time entrenched in conspiracy theories, and I was very disconnected from society.


Political extremism on both the left and right side of the political aisle is associated with conspiracy theory adoption, or heavy political bias to put it another way. Fox News is a good right wing example of this in the US, as is Breitbard, and the Daily Mail or Daily Express papers in the UK. InfoWars is a more extreme example. On the far left of the aisle you have the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Vox.


Belief in the paranormal follows the same psychology as the conspiracy mentality, which extends out to religious individuals which have been shown to be more likely to believe conspiracy theories than non-religious individuals. A belief in a god and a set of rules to live life by offering the same kinds of rewards as conspiracies do: Easy simplified explanations, and an understanding of how the universe works giving a sense of control.


A lack of scientific knowledge is a common thing I see online, as is a lack of or even no knowledge of philosophy. People repeat terms they don’t understand. They share studies they haven’t read and haven’t paid any attention to the specifics because conspiracies are broadly general. They denigrate the sheep, praise themselves as the woke, and subconsciously project their own insecurities onto others. They deny science because they don’t understand it, but when presenting their arguments pretend to be science driven. They show huge biases while claiming to be objective. 


Or to put it another way and to quote an earlier study:


“The reasons why people endorse or believe in conspiracy theories are diverse.”


The best you can do is understand these psychological factors, spend some honest time doing deep self-reflection and look at yourself objectively. If this applies to you in full, or in part, then it’s best to reexamine your beliefs and see if you’ve been falling victim to factors which are largely out of your control: Trait anxiety, stressful life experiences, lack of scientific and philosophy knowledge, narcissism, paranoia, negative self-esteem, and all the other factors above.


You can overcome this, though. I did. It took time. It took being humbled, and it took a lot of time self-reflecting and reexamining my very core belief system. It took a lot of learning. It required that I stop talking, and started listening. You can take back control of your mind. You can take back control from the natural ape brain running your thoughts through its 100,000 + years of evolutionarily learned behaviour gently pulling the strings in the background. I hope this website helps you do that.

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