Conspiracy theoriesOctober 3, 2008
Arabs and Jordanians love conspiracy theories, to the point where it sometimes becomes self destructive. What can science do to explain this?
Today, an article in Science explores why people create mental patterns where none exist in reality. This is done through experiments using volunteers who are asked to describe fuzzy images. When the volunteers were asked to visualize events where they had no control of the situation, they tended to see patterns in the images at higher frequencies than when they visualized situations where they had full control. According to the results of the study, “Participants who lacked control were more likely to perceive a variety of illusory patterns, including seeing images in noise, forming illusory correlations in stock market information, perceiving conspiracies,and developing superstitions”.
Sounds familiar. It seems that perceived loss of control is the reason why we latch on to conspiracy theories. I would like to see studies which explore whether the development of “illusory correlations” is detrimental to people who want to gain more control over the events that surround them. It is a shame that more substantial research in the behavioral sciences in Jordan is not focused on how to overcome the forces that disempower us.
On the other hand, it has been said that “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t after me”. But even so, we should do a better job in understanding the forces that hold us back.