Well-known conspiracy theories blame governments, scientists, and many others for problems as diverse as terrorists acts, deaths of important people and plane crashes. For example, popular conspiracy theories propose that the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, that the U.K Government murdered Diana, Princess of Wales, or that COVID-19 was manufactured by the Chinese to wage war on the USA (or vice versa). Belief in conspiracy theories is blooming in the 21st century.
A basic understanding of logic, rationality, and probability tell us, however, that most of these conspiracy claims are probably false. So why then do so many people believe them? What makes them so attractive and compelling to people? And, anyway, what’s the problem, aren’t they just harmless fun?
In this talk, Dr Daniel Jolley will take you through the psychology of conspiracy theories. You will learn why people subscribe to conspiracy theories and discuss some of the misconceptions (including whether all conspiracy believers are paranoid!). He will also uncover some of the potentially damaging consequences of conspiracy theories; maybe they are not just harmless after all, before discussing ongoing research into tools that seek to combat the negative harm of conspiracy theories on individuals and wider society.
Dr Daniel Jolley is a social psychologist at Northumbria University. His research explores the psychology of conspiracy theories, where he is interested in understanding why millions of people find conspiracy theories so appealing. He is also keen to explore the social consequences of believing in conspiracy theories and develop tools to address their negative impact. He has a passion for science communication and regularly appears on TV (e.g., BBC One Show), radio (e.g., BBC Radio Scotland), and in print (e.g., New York Times). He has also given many public talks on his research (e.g., Cheltenham Science Festival). You can read more about Daniel’s work on his website or Twitter.