Believing in stupid things.
Some of the conspiracies that we fall for require a stretch of the imagination at best, and at worst, are absolutely ridiculous. But absurdity doesn’t stop more than a few from being sucked in. It’s estimated that at least half of Americans believe conspiracy theories.
Very often we make the mistake of giving the players too much credit — conspiracies are complicated schemes involving a lot of characters and multiple stages stretching way out into the future. All of the pieces have to synchronize perfectly for things to work just right.
Frankly, most conspirators aren’t that clever or lucky. Even if 1 or 2 players are smart enough, at least a few won’t be. Nor are they trustworthy. A few will leak the details, either through bragging, pangs of conscience, or accidentally on purpose. There’s just no honor among thieves.
Why are they so prevalent now? One reason is us-versus-them politics. We assume, or maybe even expect, the other side will do something dastardly. These theories reinforce what we already believe, and that makes us believe even more. Even if they’re ridiculous, we’re willing to suspend our disbelief to justify our own opinions.
Some folks are more prone to fall for conspiracies. Those who believe in the supernatural — ghosts and extra-sensory perception, for example – are particularly vulnerable.
Lately, social scientists have come to divide people into two groups — Intuitionists rely on their gut feelings and instincts; and Rationalists, who focus on research studies and facts. Intuitionists are more conspiratorial in their thinking.
From a political perspective, the right wing has become more intuitionist, driven by Evangelical Christians, radical pundits, and Donald Trump. The truth is, Trump is the one of the greatest promoters of conspiracies and misinformation, and Trump voters are most likely to believe in them (by the way, so are Brexit voters.)