Checking facts and experiences is a good, contempt a weak counter-strategy
High season for conspiracy theories. This given the results of a metastudy, where siecntis from Kent, Oxfod and Miami have evaluated the previous conspiracy literature, are notably relevant:
- People foster conspiracy theories a) if the ydo not comprehend what has happened or is going on, b) feel weak and threatened and c) if they believe that the greatness of their group is not acknowledged enough by the outside world.
- Who has got or uses prejudices often, makes oneself predisposed to conspirative ideas of any kind.
- The web plays a smaller role than expected: conspiracy theoretists are predominantly read by conspiracy theoretists which keeps their content largely within their own bubble. There it might have a boost effect, though, expanding the gaps towards the socalled „others“.
- Most supporters of conspircay theories can be identified among the political extremes, left and right alike, still right-wingers are even more predisposed – typically conspiracy theorists are men with low education, low income or even jobless who are not connected with any networks.
- What helps not becoming immune to cpnspiracy theories: a) to have a good selfcontrol of one´s feelings, b) to fundamentally doubt all to simple solutions for complex cases and c) to be capable to detect non-serious posts in the Social Media.
Understanding Conspiracy Theories, Douglas/Uscinski/Sutton/Cichoka/Nefes/Ang/Deravi, in: Advances in Political Psychology, vol. 40, nr. S1, Feb.2019, p. 3 – 35.
From the practice:
Can do conspiracy theories anything good? Basically yes, since they could motivate to more openness in case of actual intransparency. In general, though, they do more harm than good according to the researchers, and should be always questioned and dissolved asap.
Sometimes my clients calculate to be confronted with conspiracy theories in the public – on TV or at panels. In these cases I continuously recommend to check first the facts and to ask for examples. The more precise, clear and logical the responses will be the easier conspiracy theories can either be revealed as pure phantasies or offer insight in circumstances which have not been public to this date. It also pays off to clarify personal experencies of people who again and again get back to conspiracy theories. In the end these theories are to be rejected almost always due to their lack of substance, but if we do so, we have to be careful not showing contempt – with our words and body language. People with small Egos – and therefore this counts for conspiracy theorists, too – need respect more than anything else. Otherwise their belief to be helpless against the powerfuls even increases. And so does also their rage.