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Suspicious Minds

Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories

By Rob Brotherton
12-minute read
Audio available
Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories by Rob Brotherton

Conspiracy theorists are everywhere. In fact, you might be one of them yourself! Have you ever questioned the official accounts of, say, 9/11 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Suspicious Minds (2015) reveals why we look for extreme answers to tragic events and explains that there’s much more to conspiracy theories than tinfoil hats and UFOs.

  • People who are suspicious about 9/11
  • Anyone interested in conspiracy theories
  • Psychology students

Rob Brotherton is a writer and academic psychologist. He is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at both Barnard College and Columbia University, and specializes in the psychology behind conspiracy theories.

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Suspicious Minds

Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories

By Rob Brotherton
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories by Rob Brotherton
Synopsis

Conspiracy theorists are everywhere. In fact, you might be one of them yourself! Have you ever questioned the official accounts of, say, 9/11 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Suspicious Minds (2015) reveals why we look for extreme answers to tragic events and explains that there’s much more to conspiracy theories than tinfoil hats and UFOs.

Key idea 1 of 7

Conspiracy theories are the result of unanswered questions and our own natural instincts.

Maybe someone has knowingly told you that 9/11 was an inside job planned by the US government; or that climate change isn’t real; or that Elvis is still alive and working at a gas station in Kentucky. These are just a few of today’s popular conspiracy theories. But have you ever wondered where these strange stories come from?

Conspiracy theories like these are the result of unanswered questions.

We’re attracted to conspiracy theories because they provide an explanation to a question that has been left unresolved. Or maybe the question has been given an official answer, but there is still contrary evidence that hasn’t yet been properly addressed.

For example, many popular conspiracy theories of our day revolve around the events of 9/11 and unanswered questions such as: Did Al Qaeda orchestrate the attack or did the US government need a reason to start a war in the Middle East? Or, was Osama Bin Laden really killed or is the CIA keeping him alive somewhere in Washington, DC?

Conspiracy theorists take questions like these and then furnish unconventional answers: Bin Laden died of natural causes soon after 9/11 but the US government covered this up in order to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s natural to think that conspiracy theories like these are simply crazy. However, having such misgivings is also a natural human instinct.

You may have heard a conspiracy theorist’s voice in your own head from time to time. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself: How can global warming be real when it’s been so cold these past few years? Now just add some natural suspicion about the government and suddenly that thought becomes a conspiracy involving evil scientists trying to control world politics!

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