When we talk about conspiracy theories, we tend to focus on what people believe instead of why, and, more importantly, why they believe those things and not other things. In this episode, we sit down with two psychologists working to change that, and in addition, change the term itself from conspiracy theory to conspiracy narrative, which more accurately describes what makes any one conspiracy appealing enough to form a community around it and in rare cases result in collective action.
Joseph Uscinski is an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami. He studies public opinion and mass media, with a focus on conspiracy theories and related misinformation. His recent article for The Guardian argues that QAnon is not growing, nor is is a right-wing conspiracy theory. He is the coauthor of American Conspiracy Theories and editor of Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them.
Anni Sternisko is a doctoral candidate at New York University studying conspiracy theory beliefs, social identity and moral judgment. Her recent paper titled: The dark side of social movements: Social identity, non-conformity, and the lure of conspiracy theories, opens with, “Research has linked conspiracy theory beliefs to anti-democratic attitudes, prejudice and non-normative political behavior. We propose a framework to understand the motivational processes behind conspiracy theories and associated social identities and collective action.”
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