Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Conspiracy theories are penis envy

Engage has a good post on conspiracy theories. Mira Vogel writes:
Last night I went to a lecture by Karen Douglas (University of Kent) on conspiracy beliefs from a social-psychological perspective. Theories about the benefits of believing in conspiracies include coming to terms with events beyond your control, comforting yourself that you alone know the truth, justifying a lack of trust in authority without having to take any action... Karen's work (data analysis is ongoing), which investigated believers rather than propagators, found that 'Machiavellianism' (a cynical world-view identified with an instrument designed by Christie and Geis) is a unique predictor of belief in conspiracies. Findings from a further study suggested that people who believe in conspiracy theories do so by making 'mental state inferences' - i.e. projecting their own values and moral standards on the agents at the centre of the conspiracies. Even more interestingly, a question on conspiracy intentions found that the high Machs were more likely to respond affirmatively when asked whether, if they were in the position of the system responsible for a given conspiracy event, they would have done it.
Like I keep saying: it's penis envy.

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