Saturday, June 11, 2011

Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia

So ... um ... how do you think Princess Diana died? JFK? When you talk about the "terrorist attacks of 9/11," do you actually draw air quotes with your fingers? Was coverage of the U. S. Apollo missions to the moon a sham? Is your government hiding visits from space aliens?

A long-growing body of research suggests that people who believe in conspiracy theories do so in order to vent unrelieved negative and angry feelings. These people are disagreeable and have difficulties in their relationships with authority figures. This body of research has now been topped off by a study conducted at Northumbria University in Newcastle. In "Belief in Conspiracy Theories. The Role of Paranormal Belief, Paranoid Ideation, and Schizotypy," in the June 2011 Personality and Individual Differences, the psychologists report that people who believe in conspiracy theories score high on measures of paranoia and schizotypal (odd loner) behavior. The psychologists suggest that, for many such people, conspiracy theories may serve a useful function, giving them a safe hook on which to hang their otherwise mounting anxiety.

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