Sense, Nonsense, and Everything in Between – The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

AJP092502 - Wernher von Braun walks around a replica of the Apollo 11 moon landing at Atlanta’s Southeastern Fair, 9/25/69

AJP092502 – Wernher von Braun walks around a replica of the Apollo 11 moon landing at Atlanta’s Southeastern Fair, 9/25/69

Dr Michael Wood of the University of Winchester will give the July talk focussing on his research into the psychology of conspiracy theories.

Poster for Dr Michael Wood

Poster for Dr Michael Wood

Conspiracy theories are everywhere – and, arguably, always have been. What influences us to believe or reject them? Why do some events give rise to more conspiracy theories than others? What does the prevalence of conspiracy theories say about us as a society? And how is The Simpsons like an ancient Babylonian sheep’s liver? This whirlwind tour through conspiracy theory psychology will focus particularly on how suspicion, paranoia, and ambiguity help us to make sense of an uncertain world.

Dr Wood’s present research interests include various aspects of social, political, and cognitive psychology, including ideology, extremism and radicalisation, authoritarianism, online communication, signal detection, categorisation, and quantitative methodology.

However, his primary research interest (and expertise) is in the psychology of conspiracy theories. Why do opinions differ so widely on whether conspiracy theories are a valid way to explain what’s going on in the world? What separates those who believe many conspiracy theories from those who believe few or none?