Why do so many people swallow falsehoods while rejecting verifiable facts and scientific data as "lies"? Many anti-vaxxers persist in their beliefs that vaccines and masks are useless or harmful, even after losing unvaxxed family members to covid! Any theories?
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Grad school psych student here. The person who said this is the only time they've ever felt smart is onto something. It has a lot to do with narcissistic attention and need to belong - these are social rejects who haven't accomplished much in life, so joining the anti-vax cult feeds their narcissism and makes them feel like an important part of a group. Probably also the first time in their life they've been accepted as part of a group, so if they were to reject the group's anti-vax beliefs, they would be rejected by the group too.
Wrote a paper on this last semester, don't feel like digging up all my sources, but here's a few.
I'm finding my way around a new computer I just hooked up last night. The top of the news feature when I fired it up this morning showed this:
I'm likin' it already. I shall call it Truth Central.
I've recently started listening to Eric Hoffer's 'The True Believer' on Audible. It was written in 1951 and is more like a long essay than a scientific study (several times I've found myself arguing with him) but it's still a fascinating look at what sort of people are attracted to extreme mass movements and what attracts them. Some observations he makes:
- The biggest attraction of all is 'belonging' as it enables people to feel lifted out of an unsatisfactory life and reborn to new agency and dignity. I've seen conspiracy theorists celebrate a pointless failed protest (against a lockdown that had already ended!) because 'we met a lot of great guys.' It was obvious that the gathering itself was the point - being in a big crowd all shouting together
- Clever leaders exploit faux nostalgia and provide lots of items like uniforms, stickers, flags etc which all help with the sense of a new purpose. Hence MAGA caps and trucks plastered with flags, etc. Possibly also goatees? (Napoleon was well ahead of Hoffer here: he stated that 'men are led by toys')
- Very frequently there is a crossover between politics and religion - in the case of antivaxx, with both evangelical Christianity and New Age/wellness culture
- If you provide enough toys and group identity, you can get people to sacrifice themselves because their life apart from the group seems much less valuable.
From what I've seen of UK conspiracy theorists, many (not all - and not the ones at the top, grifting) tend to be right at the bottom of the social pile. They are the sort of people who have been repeatedly shat upon by society. I saw an article recently (hope I find it again at some point) saying that research shows they are more likely to come from penniless families, or parents who are addicts, or to have been abused as children, or all of the above. So in a way, their paranoia is understandable, if self-destructive. I find it interesting that many of the American families featured on SAV look relatively prosperous, at least to my eyes, but have a victim mentality nevertheless.
Once they find their tribe, though, they often become unbearable, jeering and sneering at the 'sheeple' (or 'owning the libs'). I often think this must be the only time in their entire lives that some of these people have felt smart.
It's interesting to see just how long this sort of thing has been going on...
Jeff Holiday says it all
Description. I debunk dangerous pseudoscience, investigate cults and scams and keep a stern eye on the Antivaxx movement. *WARNING* I don't have a profanity filter and I swear like a sailor.
I would say the two most prominent reasons are
1) Vanity. The happy feeling that you are more knowledgeable than the uninitiated and smart enough to see through the lies you have been told. Works against feelings of inferiority occasioned by:
2) Ignorance. Most people are not well enough educated to evaluate the facts for themselves, and/or they are unwilling to put down the beer long enough to do so.
That's a helluva good question.!
They aren't exposed to alternative opinions because they listen to and watch RW media like Fox and the others. They are being lied to every day and every night, 7 days a week. If you only see and hear one side of issues and then only see and hear what they want you to, then it's natural to believe it because you have nothing to compare it to. I'm not saying this is the only reason because I'm sure this is just a generalization, but I believe this is a major reason.
The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories