Mapping the world's opinions

Why do we believe Conspiracy Theories, with Karen Douglas

This week, we speak with Karen Douglas about the literature around Conspiracy Theories: why do we believe them, and what needs do they satisfy?

S1 E11: Why do we believe Conspiracy Theories?

“People are drawn to conspiracy theories to satisfy particular unmet psychological needs - epistemic, existential and social.”

Turi talks with Professor Karen Douglas of the University of Kent, to understand where conspiracy theories come from.

Karen has surveyed all the literature on conspiracy theory. She identifies three core drivers behind the instincts of conspiracy believers, in each instance attempting to satisfy a deep psychological need.

  1. Epistemic: the need to understand the world around us. Conspiracy theories appear to give us the answers we’re looking for.

  2. Existential: the need to feel safe in our environments and feel a sense of control as autonomous humans. Making sense of the world around us allows us to feel we can dominate it.

  3. Social: we all want to feel good about ourselves and about the groups that we belong to. If we’re in a group that’s suffering, conspiracy theories allow us to explain that away.

Listen to hear:

  • why narcissists make conspiracy believers
  • why people with anxious attachment styles tend to conspiracy thinking
  • whether conspiracy thinking is evenly split between Left and Right
  • how we’re all conspiracy theorists some of the time
  • And whether conspiracy theories do, in fact, alleviate the psychological needs of those you seek to believe them

Karen Douglas

Karen Douglas is Professor of Social Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Psychology at Kent University.

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 9 Sep 2020 at 18:10 UTC