5 reasons why we (like to) believe in conspiracy theories

This article is part of Conspiracy theories

A conspiracy theory ‘succeeds’ when as many people as possible believe it. And sometimes that’s surprisingly easy: you can’t underestimate the attraction of conspiracy theories. Discover 5 reasons why we like to believe them.

A conspiracy theory offers answers

Sometimes things happen in the world that we could never have imagined. Take the coronavirus, for example: who would have thought that hugging our friends and family could be forbidden for over a year?

When emotional, incomprehensible or unpleasant things happen, we like to look for answers. Conspiracy theories offer simple explanations that can sometimes seem more plausible than the truth. For example, it’s easy to believe that the coronavirus is caused by the 5G network.

We’ve learned to doubt

Doubt is the basis of scientific thought. Galileo wasn’t convinced that the earth was the centre of the universe, so he translated his doubt into a hypothesis. That hypothesis was confirmed with evidence and finally accepted by the entire scientific community. Thus, we have learned that a critical view of the dominant opinions can pay dividends: history has proved it many times.

Sometimes we need a scapegoat

If we are in a socially vulnerable position or feel like injustices are being done to us, it feels good if we can blame someone for it. It helps us to deal with our feelings.

“If you feel like the world is against you, you’ll be more attracted to theories that give you a clear enemy.”
Piaa Varis
Prof. dr. Piia Varis
Tilburg University

The internet drags us along

There were already conspiracy theories in the Middle Ages, but the internet and social media have given a boost to their reach. People who believe in them find each other through social media. Through groups and pages, they get to strengthen their beliefs and spread their theories further. Algorithms also play an important role in the spread of conspiracy theories: if you have previously read or watched anything to do with a conspiracy theory, the algorithms behind social media and search engines will try to serve you more of the same.

We like to be part of a group

Entire groups and communities can be built on conspiracy theories. From pages and (secret) groups on social media to discussion forums and even entire websites. Belonging to such a community can make people feel good. It gives them access to interesting knowledge that others are ignorant of. It makes them special!

Conspiracy theories: just for weirdos?

What makes you vulnerable to conspiracy theories? Are conspiracy theorists mentally unstable, or is that a misconception? Discover it here.

Want to learn more?

Published on 18 October 2023