There has been a great deal of distrust of governments these days. This distrust is often tied up in conspiracy theories which are so strong they lead to the endorsement of entirely contradictory beliefs, according to a study by Michael J. Wood and colleagues which has been published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. These conspiracy theories are seen to often form a monological belief system, which is a self-sustaining worldview comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs.
An article “Believing the Impossible and Conspiracy Theories” published in Science Daily states that distrust and paranoia about government has a long history, and the feeling that there is actually a conspiracy of elites can lead to suspicion for authorities and the claims they make. The attraction of conspiracy theories is so strong for many people that it leads them to endorse entirely contradictory beliefs.
Authorities are seen as fundamentally deceptive by people who endorse conspiracy theories. The powerful conviction that the “official story” is untrue often leads people to believe several alternative theories, even when there are contradictions among them. In order to determine if conspiracy views were strong enough to lead to inconsistencies, the researchers asked 137 college students what they thought about the death of Princess Diana. It was paradoxically found the more people thought there “was an official campaign by the intelligence service to assassinate Diana,” the more these people also believed that “Diana faked her own death to retreat into isolation.” Clearly, Diana cannot be simultaneously dead and alive.
The researchers were also interested in understanding if the contradictory beliefs were due to suspicion of authorities, and so they asked 102 college students what they thought about the death of Osama bin Laden (OBL). It was found that people who believed that “when the raid took place, OBL was already dead,” were significantly more likely to also believe that “OBL is still alive.” Clearly, bin Laden must either be alive or dead. The researchers discovered that the belief that the “actions of the Obama administration indicate that they are hiding some important or damaging piece of information about the raid” has been responsible for the connection between the two conspiracy theories.
And so a conspiracy belief is so potent that it can lead to belief in completely inconsistent ideas. The researchers have commented “Any conspiracy theory that stands in opposition to the official narrative will gain some degree of endorsement from someone who holds a conpiracist worldview.” Any alternative explanation is seen as more credible from the start for conspiracy theorists. Overall the researchers believe the monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another but instead by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.
Mandel News Service