Critical thinking skills and belief in conspiracy theory

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pinball1970
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  • #2
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Sort of a tautology though - if you have good critical thinking skills then you won't fall for conspiracy theories.
 
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  • #3
hutchphd
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So that's worthy data in the universe of psychology. Now that's interesting.

With regard to the "theorists" I think a better explanation is best espoused by, among others, comedian Ron White in his classic line

"You can't fix stupid"

Although I disagree occasionally with Mr White, this maxim deserves to be up there with the AA Serenity Mantra for maintenance of my mental health particularly over the past half decade
 
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  • #4
jack action
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I think that trust is a much more important factor in conspiracy theories than cognitive abilities. Certainly, "stupidity" has nothing to do with it.

From Believing in Hidden Plots is Associated with Decreased Behavioral Trust: Conspiracy
Belief as Greater Sensitivity to Social Threat or Insensitivity Towards its Absence?:

Believing in Hidden Plots is Associated with Decreased Behavioral Trust: Conspiracy Belief as Greater Sensitivity to Social Threat or Insensitivity Towards its Absence? said:
A common denominator of these behaviors seems to be trust: One has to trust the medical recommendations to allow one’s child to be vaccinated, and one has to trust politicians to represent the will of the electorate in order to see any meaning behind voting and not trusting the basic functioning of a pluralistic system does leave little alternatives to aim at overthrowing it. Trust thus is the glue that binds societies together, but also on a personal level we place our trust in often unknown others countless times every day (Golembiewski & McConkie, 1975; Rotter, 1971). Importantly, the decision to trust determines our subsequent behavior towards the person in question.
For instance, trust is a positive predictor for cooperation (Balliet & Van Lange, 2013). Interpersonal trust can be defined as “a risky choice of making oneself dependent on the actions of another in a situation of uncertainty, based upon some expectation of whether the other will act in a benevolent fashion despite an opportunity to betray” (Thielmann & Hilbig, 2015, p. 251). Broadly speaking, trust depends on both the individual, stable characteristics of the trusting person (e.g., Evans & Revelle, 2008) and the features of the specific trust situation, including, for instance, the trustworthiness of the trustee in question (e.g., Snijders & Keren, 2001; also see Fleeson & Leicht, 2006 for an integrative account on the person-situation perspectives of trust).
Furthermore, this mistrust may be based on a feeling of powerlessness. From The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories:

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories said:
As well as their purely epistemic purposes, causal explanations serve the need for people to feel safe and secure in their environment and to exert control over the environment as autonomous individuals and as members of collectives (Tetlock, 2002). Several early theories of conspiracy belief suggested that people turn to conspiracy theories for compensatory satisfaction when these needs are threatened. For example, people who lack instrumental control may be afforded some compensatory sense of control by conspiracy theories, because they offer them the opportunity to reject official narratives and feel that they possess an alternative account (Goertzel, 1994).
Conspiracy theories may promise to make people feel safer as a form of cheater detection, in which dangerous and untrustworthy individuals are recognized and the threat they posed is reduced or neutralized (Bost & Prunier, 2013).

Research supports this account of the motivation behind conspiracy belief. Studies have shown that people are likely to turn to conspiracy theories when they are anxious (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013) and feel powerless (Abalakina-Paap, Stephan, Craig, & Gregory, 1999). Other research indicates that conspiracy belief is strongly related to lack of sociopolitical control or lack of psychological empowerment (Bruder et al., 2013). Experiments have shown that compared with baseline conditions, conspiracy belief is heightened when people feel unable to control outcomes and is reduced when their sense of control is affirmed (van Prooijen & Acker, 2015).

And:

Believing in Hidden Plots is Associated with Decreased Behavioral Trust: Conspiracy Belief as Greater Sensitivity to Social Threat or Insensitivity Towards its Absence? said:
Second, conspiracy beliefs are related to several negative emotions, such as chronic feelings of powerlessness,
lack of personal control (Abalakina-Paap et al., 1999), death-related anxiety (Newheiser et al., 2011) and fear (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013). Such emotions tend to cause avoidance-oriented reactions (e.g., Elliot & McGregor, 1999; Green & Phillips, 2004), hence rendering a cautious atmosphere of mistrust likely. In fact, some authors argue that conspiracy beliefs are manifestations of an evolutionary adaptive strategy to be suspicious and distrustful about others’ intentions (Van Prooijen & Van Vugt, 2018).
 
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  • #6
stevendaryl
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I agree that belief in conspiracy theories is more about emotion than it is about thinking skills. Just to give one example: Look at 9/11. For most normal people, it was easy to explain: Terrorists hijacked a plane, crashed it into the Twin Towers, and the resulting flames caused the building to collapse. But then conspiracy theorists point out that the temperature of jet fuel burning is X, while the temperature required to metal steel is Y < X.

That response isn't stupid. It's a use of critical thinking in attacking the official story. The people who believed the official story didn't do because they understood the temperatures better than the conspiracy theorists. Most likely, they accepted the official story before they even thought about these temperatures. Now, it does turn out that knowing even more will dispute this conspiracy theory objection. Even though steel has a high melting temperature, it gets soft at much lower temperatures. But my point is that the dividing line between conspiracy theorists and intelligence/knowledge is not clear-cut. Low-information people are on both sides of the divide, and high-information people are on both sides.
 
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  • #7
hutchphd
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It's a use of critical thinking in attacking the official story.

The people who believed the official story didn't do because they understood the temperatures better than the conspiracy theorists.
But the use of critical thinking also must allow you to trust in those more knowledgeable than you to investigate. It is like watching congressman Louie Gohmert explain why sea level rise is a fallacy because when the ice melts in his glass the water level doesn't go up.
Not only is he wrong, he is the poster boy for the Dunning-Krueger effect.
That being said , my favorite Feynman is: "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts" which is not the same as declaring the moon landing a hoax.
 
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  • #8
Ivan Seeking
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But the use of critical thinking also must allow you to trust in those more knowledgeable than you to investigate. It is like watching congressman Louie Gohmert explain why sea level rise is a fallacy because when the ice melts in his glass the water level doesn't go up.
Not only is he wrong, he is the poster boy for the Dunning-Krueger effect.
That being said , my favorite Feynman is: "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts" which is not the same as declaring the moon landing a hoax.

I have renamed this - the Dunning-Krueger effect - the Holiday Inn Effect. :)



People don't just overestimate their abilities. Many see no value in being an actual expert. Education is seen as brainwashing, not hard-earned knowledge.

Haven't you heard? Anyone can spend a few days reading on the internet and have the equivalent of a Ph.D.
 
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  • #9
Ivan Seeking
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I agree that belief in conspiracy theories is more about emotion than it is about thinking skills. Just to give one example: Look at 9/11. For most normal people, it was easy to explain: Terrorists hijacked a plane, crashed it into the Twin Towers, and the resulting flames caused the building to collapse. But then conspiracy theorists point out that the temperature of jet fuel burning is X, while the temperature required to metal steel is Y < X.

That response isn't stupid. It's a use of critical thinking in attacking the official story. The people who believed the official story didn't do because they understood the temperatures better than the conspiracy theorists. Most likely, they accepted the official story before they even thought about these temperatures. Now, it does turn out that knowing even more will dispute this conspiracy theory objection. Even though steel has a high melting temperature, it gets soft at much lower temperatures. But my point is that the dividing line between conspiracy theorists and intelligence/knowledge is not clear-cut. Low-information people are on both sides of the divide, and high-information people are on both sides.
But your argument is that non experts should argue out of ignorance. Did it really take a genius to figure out that hot steel gets soft? Or do you think any real expert would have known that? In turn ten-thousand crackpot conspiracy theories could have been avoided.

Biggest problem I see is that non experts want to challenge anything and everything rather than asking questions. Rather than accepting that they are not experts and should therefore learn, they see themselves as superior to actual experts based on magical knowledge. They believe the average person is much smarter than the highly educated even in their field of expertise!
 
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  • #10
pinball1970
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I have renamed this - the Dunning-Krueger effect - the Holiday Inn Effect. :)



People don't just overestimate their abilities. Many see no value in being an actual expert. Education is seen as brainwashing, not hard-earned knowledge.

Haven't you heard? Anyone can spend a few days reading on the internet and have the equivalent of a Ph.D.
Your video won't play. Can you let me know the details?

The reason I posted this is because of all the nonsense I have encountered on the internet regarding COVID19 from March last year and my experience in Manchester encountering an anti vax march in May this year.
Anecdotal, in my experiences only.
There are some conspiracy theorists that just want it all to be a conspiracy.
They are anti establishment, superiority complex, NWO nut jobs. Bill Gates wants to put microchips in everyone. Pre covid there would have been some other conspiracy.
The second group are a little gullible but mainly lack knowledge, MMR causes autism because they heard it did from friends who read something in the paper. COVID has 99.97% recovery rate because it was on YT and FB. An afternoon in the Library with them would probably change their mind.
The third group are Dunning Kruger.
The last group doubt the science and don't trust the government. Probably similar to 911 guys. If it was an inside job the the science guys are probably in on it. Not as crazy one but not as gullible as two or as stupid as three. I could have a beer with that group and change their mind probably.
Vanadium50 said why do you need to disprove the internet to another poster? On this I think it is worth putting stuff out there.
 
  • #11
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I'm already sensing a conspiracy because when I clicked on the link I got "page not found"

Sort of a tautology though - if you have good critical thinking skills then you won't fall for conspiracy theories.
Agree. But you also won't fall for government whitewash and cover-ups which can lead to you being accused of being a conspiracy theorist.
 
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  • #12
nox
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Sort of a tautology though - if you have good critical thinking skills then you won't fall for conspiracy theories.
What about conspiracy facts?
Human animal chimeras
Cloned beef
The great reset
These all are verifiable facts
 
  • #13
nox
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I agree that belief in conspiracy theories is more about emotion than it is about thinking skills. Just to give one example: Look at 9/11. For most normal people, it was easy to explain: Terrorists hijacked a plane, crashed it into the Twin Towers, and the resulting flames caused the building to collapse. But then conspiracy theorists point out that the temperature of jet fuel burning is X, while the temperature required to metal steel is Y < X.

That response isn't stupid. It's a use of critical thinking in attacking the official story. The people who believed the official story didn't do because they understood the temperatures better than the conspiracy theorists. Most likely, they accepted the official story before they even thought about these temperatures. Now, it does turn out that knowing even more will dispute this conspiracy theory objection. Even though steel has a high melting temperature, it gets soft at much lower temperatures. But my point is that the dividing line between conspiracy theorists and intelligence/knowledge is not clear-cut. Low-information people are on both sides of the divide, and high-information people are on both sides.
The official narative is that they found the terrorists passport in the gaping hole wreckage. Building 7 collapsed the same way that is identical as a controlled demolition even if it was not hit by a plane but a wheel part. Have we ever seen buildings collapse on itself from a fire after the fact?
How about people that never flown any commercial jet before could fly in such expert manner they could hit such a narrow target? There are so many flaws in the official narrative
 
  • #14
rsk
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"passport in the rubble" has become a standard response in our family to any official statement that sounds implausible or downright false.
 
  • #15
nox
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"passport in the rubble" has become a standard response in our family to any official statement that sounds implausible or downright false.
Glad to find others who think that :)
 
  • #16
256bits
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Biggest problem I see is that non experts want to challenge anything and everything rather than asking questions. Rather than accepting that they are not experts and should therefore learn, they see themselves as superior to actual experts based on magical knowledge. They believe the average person is much smarter than the highly educated even in their field of expertise!
Agree, but do not agree.
Blindly accepting others explanations is useful at times. and not at other times.
The police and justice system deal with this all the time, and it takes an " impartial" audience to sort out the details, and even then they can be wrong.
What makes something a conspiracy theory anyways.
If one person is correct, and everyone else is wrong, does that one person suddenly become a conspirator if he/she goes about trying to convince others of the correctness of his belief/theory/ facts.
If dis-beliefs are putout by strong agents such as governments is that promotion of conspiratory theory, or just propaganda to sway opinion. So opinion counts. And the more one can sway, the more truthful the idea becomes as it is repeated over and over. Which is what we see on the internet and social forums.
 
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  • #17
pinball1970
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Have we ever seen buildings collapse on itself from a fire after the fact?
This one in Iran?


And this one in Brazil?
 
  • #18
nox
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This one in Iran?

Thank you for the video, but that does not look like a fall straight down that fell to the side. This is exactly my point all 3 buildings collapsed in a way we only see buildings do that undergo controlled demolition by exploding the fondation.
 
  • #19
pinball1970
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Thank you for the video, but that does not look like a fall straight down that fell to the side. This is exactly my point all 3 buildings collapsed in a way we only see buildings do that undergo controlled demolition by exploding the fondation.
The Brazil building looked pretty straight, I'm not a structural engineer though so I can only go off what I see.
As my original conspiracy post was referring to my experiences with COVID19 on line and in Manchester, Can I ask for your view on the science of the pandemic?
 
  • #20
nox
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The Brazil building looked pretty straight, I'm not a structural engineer though so I can only go off what I see.
As my original conspiracy post was referring to my experiences with COVID19 on line and in Manchester, Can I ask for your view on the science of the pandemic?
First let me show you this. This is a reel from a conference they had 2019 before the pandemic
 
  • #21
Ivan Seeking
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Agree, but do not agree.
Blindly accepting others explanations is useful at times. and not at other times.
The police and justice system deal with this all the time, and it takes an " impartial" audience to sort out the details, and even then they can be wrong.
The basis for most popular conspiracy theories is crackpot science and crackpot engineering based in ignorance. If there is a logical basis for an argument and we find general agreement among experts that something is wrong, fine, determine the facts. But what we find is that Joe Sixpack just dismisses anything he doesn't understand as some kind of plot. And instead of learning the facts they turn to, for example, a former meth head who makes pillows, while looking for a cure for Covid 19; while rejecting the advice of the medical community.
 
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
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Your video won't play. Can you let me know the details?
Holiday Inn Express has a series of commercials playing on this idea. In one, a man stops a nuclear meltdown at a nuclear power plant, at the last moment. Everyone cheers but realizes they don't know who he is. He explains that he isn't a nuclear engineer. He was just with the tour group. But he stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.
 
  • #23
nox
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The basis for most popular conspiracy theories is crackpot science and crackpot engineering based in ignorance. If there is a logical basis for an argument and we find general agreement among experts that something is wrong, fine, determine the facts. But what we find is that Joe Sixpack just dismisses anything he doesn't understand as some kind of plot. And instead of learning the facts they turn to, for example, a former meth head who makes pillows, while looking for a cure for Covid 19; while rejecting the advice of the medical community.
So what about the conspiracy theory about work being done to create animal human hybrids, this is now admitted. Or that the worlds most powerful individuals get together in the woods to do a mock sacrifice to moloch, this has been admitted. Or what about worlds most powerful individuals including politicians from many nations, tech giants etc get together for a few days to talk about things behind closed doors, (bilderberg meetings). As you see allot of things we dismissed as crazy conspiracy theories where totally factual. The latest one admitted is the new world order, also named the great reset. An actual quote is 2030 you will own nothing and be happy
 
  • #24
Ivan Seeking
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What about conspiracy facts?
Human animal chimeras
Cloned beef
The great reset
These all are verifiable facts

I remember spider goat being announced many years ago. And China is experimenting. What a shock! So what conspiracy?

Cloned beef? The FDA approved that 12 years ago. What conspiracy?

The great reset? I don't even know what you're talking about. You mean Hillary and her reset button? The world economic forum has the great reset as a topic to recover from Covid. But it is published information. So again, what conspiracy.

The one "conspiracy" I know about that was true was the claim of Area 51. The hard core UFO folks were claiming it existed over 20 years before anyone admitted it. I suspect most people here still thought it was bogus until I posted photos of it from Google Earth.
 
  • #25
nox
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I remember spider goat being announced many years ago. And China is experimenting. What a shock! So what conspiracy?

Cloned beef? The FDA approved that 12 years ago. What conspiracy?

The great reset? I don't even know what you're talking about. You mean Hillary and her reset button? The world economic forum has the great reset as a topic to recover from Covid. But it is published information. So again, what conspiracy.

The one "conspiracy" I know about that was true was the claim of Area 51. The hard core UFO folks were claiming it existed over 20 years before anyone admitted it.
This is my point all these things was dissmissed as crazy conspiracy theories until not long ago, even if they are well documented. Exactly right. Today conspiracy theorist is a slur against anyone who challange the status qoue and are to think media might be lying to us.
 

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