A study just out from the University of Kent inquires into the nature of conspiracy theorists, and comes out with this interesting or maybe obvious conclusion: It’s not that they really believe what they’re saying. It’s more that they don’t trust authority figures on the matter.
As Eric Barker noted when he flagged this study,
Apparently the logic is something like “It’s not about whether my theory is right but what they are telling us is definitely wrong.”
So, for example, as explained in the abstract of the paper,
The more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up.
Which potentially explains why so many climate deniers are full of heaps and heaps of self-contradictory baloney. Sure, a few have created an internally consistent model of the universe that by definition violates some fairly basic physical law, but the rest are just looking for something to sputter when challenged with the brutal logic of climate change.
Do people really believe conspiracy theories or do they just not trust authority?, Barking Up the Wrong Tree.