Frontiers | Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality: an integrated account from cognitive science, social representations theory, and frame theory | Personality and Social Psychology

Posted: March 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

It is difficult to explain the set of dimensions along which CTs vary from within specific disciplines. One dimension concerns the intensity of belief in the CT, which ranges from casual to passionate. More casual CTs (e.g., the “X-Files”), can be engaged with similar to any kind of fiction, suspending disbelief whilst being entertained (Sunstein and Vermeule, 2009). But other CTs are believed quite passionately, and are used to frame events in radical ways so as to mobilize collective action against a target (the conspiratorial agent). An example is the CT propagated during the Black Death accusing Jews of plotting against Christianity. This CT motivated Christian inhabitants of European cities to numerous pogroms, leading to the eradication of Jewish communities in Western Europe (Kelly, 2005). A second dimension of CTs is their distribution. Some CTs arise in a small community and are not widely accepted in society (e.g., the belief that powerful leaders of this planet are members of a race of lizards seeking world domination), while others are held by a majority of the population (e.g., the belief that the Kennedy assassination was not the work of a lone gunman; Goertzel, 1994). A third dimension along which CTs vary is their connection with collective action – some being confined to collective sense-making, whilst others (as in the pogroms) lead to collective action against the alleged conspirators.

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