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Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking 371

Layzej writes "Last summer a paper investigating the link between conspiratorial thinking and the rejection of climate science provoked a response on blogs skeptical of the scientific consensus that appeared to illustrate the very cognitive processes at the center of the research. This generated data for a new paper titled 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation (PDF).' The researchers reviewed the reactions for evidence of conspiratorial thinking, including the presumption of nefarious intent, perception of persecution, the tendency to detect meaning in random events, and the ability to interpret contrary evidence as evidence that the conspiracy is even greater in scope that was originally believed. Some of the hypotheses promoted to dismiss the findings of the original paper ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. It is not clear whether the response to this paper will itself provide data for further research, or how far down this recursion could progress. I fear the answer may be 'all the way.'"
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Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

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  • Yo dawg (Score:4, Funny)

    by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:32AM (#42806647)

    I herd you like conspiration theories

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:47AM (#42806721) Homepage Journal

    In 3... 2... 1...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Vintermann ( 400722 )

      Why would you say this ... unless you have inside knowledge!

    • by Panaflex ( 13191 )

      Yo Dawg, so like my theory is that some crazy mujahideen who happens to be really rich decided to attack America using airplanes. He conspires with a bunch of dudes who then steal the identities of some other dudes, so then they hijack and crash their stolen airplanes at 500mph into buildings! Meanwhile, crazy dude's freakin' brother Shafig is eating breakfast with the ex-president of the USA. Sick, huh?

      Conspiracy? By definition - hell yes. True? Seems legit. The truth is already f*cked up enough - w

  • Wrong field (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It took them less than a month to put a paper out. I'm in the wrong field. I could have graduated in half a year.

  • Random Randomization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:54AM (#42806753)

    Are we to presume, then, from the analytical model in TFA that the LIBOR affair, Watergate, and the 1919 Black Sox scandal are all just paranoid hysteria?

    • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:57AM (#42806761) Homepage

      There were not a lot of people shouting in the desert that "LIBOR are fixing interest rates for their own gain!", nor a lot of people saying "Nixon is using illegal means to keep track of his political opponents. Guaranteed!". Conspiracy theorists tend to miss the real conspiracies, it seems.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think that's primarily because conspiracy theorists imagine that conspiracies are typically much grander than the ones that exist in reality. The very nature of a conspiracy tends to keep it small; human nature is not overcome so easily.

        • by DrXym ( 126579 )
          Not only grander but usually physically and logistically impossible. e.g. the people who assert controlled demolition for 9/11.
      • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:19AM (#42806833)

        While true that the unbalanced ones will always be off the mark, I worry that too broad a brush will make people unwilling to acknowledge real collusion for fear of being lumped in with the loony lot. Just the sort of thing political and business spinmasters try to foster.

      • by Panaflex ( 13191 )

        That's true - but I also think a lot of really smart people dabble in conspiracy theories. You won't see many of them pulling together a movement, but mainly they watch and attempt to verify things that seem interesting.

        In other words - conspiracy theories are just wild-ass guesses. In some limited circumstances, it's a start for deeper researching of topics. Most of the real conspiracies are leaked or eeked out by conversations with real people, not conspiracy boards.

    • by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:57AM (#42806981)

      This paper is about the thought processes, not about the actual truth. Actually there are no guarantees that you can not arrive to a right conclusion using flawed reasoning (however, I don't recall conspiracy theory nutjobs speculating about the LIBOR fixing).

      • I suspect that conspiracy theories are a way to find/create a simplified version of the world which is more digesteable to those of limited mental skill (and yeah, I know I sound elitistic here). In that sense, it's similar to religion (the world and life is so much easier to cope with if one can invoke the "Will of God" to explain the vagaries of life).

        That being the case, LIBOR as a conspiracy would simple be about a subject mater which is so complex to understand to begin with and in such a limited and o

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      Just because some conspiracies are real does not mean they all are. And paranoia is an adequate explanation for many of the conspiracies floating around the kook-o-sphere.
  • Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elucido ( 870205 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:54AM (#42806755)

    People believe in conspiracies because they don't have anyone in authority they can trust. It doesn't help when authority lies to them about virtually everything.

    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:31AM (#42806889)

      People believe in conspiracies because conspiracies actaully exist. The US really did get lied into two wars, for instance, and those who did the lying knew exactly what they were doing. The motives were profit and power. Period. That's about as evil as it gets.

      Also, I think there is sufficient proof that government does NOT represent the interests of the people these days, that they do protect the interests of the rich, and that government gets seriously paranoid whenever there is an active movement opposing either it or the wealthy--see law enforcement's reaction to Occupy Wall Street for an example. The Bradley Manning case as another. The Aaron Swartz case as another. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

      Does that mean every conspiracy theory is true? Of course not. However, I'm sick and tired of "conspiracy theory" and "conspiracy theorist" being some kind of get out of jail free card for people who don't want to truly address what's going on in our society these days.

      • by equex ( 747231 )
        It is absolutely a get out of jail for free card. And this points out the phenomenon of 'non-conspirational conspiracy' where a pattern of individual behaviour, when scaled up, effectively becomes said conspiration, only nobody knows. How these individual patterns arise, is another discussion.
    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:39AM (#42807161)

      People believe in conspiracy theories because it is way much easier than to actually learn the truth. The great thing about conspiracy theories that you don't have to know the actual facts (in the case of many theories it is actually a hindrance), you don't have to be very rigorous with your logic and if there's any hole in the theory you are welcome to make up any explanation. Compare that to the hard work required to be competent in a real area of knowledge.

      Also, your reasoning does not make much sense: you cannot trust the authorities so you believe everything the first nut job tells you? Really?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      An interesting counter-opinion to that is that actually people believe in conspiracies because they want them to be true.

      They would rather believe there is a malign force greater than themselves, than that there is no force greater then themselves.

      In other words, it's a proxy for God.

  • by adamjv ( 2834307 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:12AM (#42806805)
    Isn't it obvious? The researchers paid dozens of bloggers to come up with these conspiracy theories. The blogs were used as evidence to support the hypotheses in the follow-up paper, which will earn the researchers enough cash to pay more bloggers. And so on.

    It's kinda like the way McAfee and Symantec have secret programmers who strategically release new viruses when business is slow.
  • by frivolous_taco ( 2834339 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:13AM (#42806807)
    MEMBER OF THE ROYAL FAMILY, KING RICHARD III, FOUND MURDERED IN PARKING LOT, POLICE DECLINE TO INVESTIGATE!! CONSPIRACY??!! - Leave out one key piece of information and it takes on a life of it's own, but there is nothing untrue about the above. Conspiracies seem to live on the interpretation that those who believe them have a better understanding of the issue at hand than those in charge, or that they have all the relevant information, when they don't.
    • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <(VortexCortex) ( ...> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:51AM (#42806957)

      Leave out one key piece of information and it takes on a life of it's own, but there is nothing untrue about the above.

      Conspiracies seem to live on the interpretation that those who believe them have a better understanding of the issue at hand than those in charge, or that they have all the relevant information, when they don't.

      Nonsense. Even if you have all the evidence in plain view there can still be vast networks of shady dealings and huge cover-ups at work. Just look at the Kennedy Assassination!

      Those bones matched royal DNA because they weren't from King Richard III, they were really from a current member of the royal family who has now been replaced with an evil doppleganger clone (made possible by recently discovered Nazi stem cell research and advanced eugenics). They just needed a convenient way to dismiss the evidence -- Oh, that body with royal DNA? Uh, oh, It's just the remains of King Richard! Which one? Why, the 3rd one! Now they've got an inside agent in the royal family... Hot on the heels of Kim Jong Un's replacement of Kim Jong Il, all while for the 1st time ever the USA presidency is held by a black man!?

      Coincidence?! I Think Not!

    • Richard III was not a member of the ruling family, but a distant relative. A relative of the current queen had problems with him and had a role in death; that is why there is no investigatation.
  • The paper was put forward in a slanted way. The report apparently concluded that: "those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from climate science as well as other sciences."

    What it the report SHOULD have concluded is: "those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from science" which is exactly as valid, is a far more neutral observation, and does not single out a specific group.

    By including the "climate science" as a specific category the researchers make themselves suspect and people may (perhaps not entirely without cause) assume that this report was not unbiased and perhaps targeting "climate sceptists" rather than being an honest report on the behaviour of conspiracists in general. And of course this fuels a discussion. The authors could have known this and probably did. Therefore the article's title should be renamed to: "Those who play at bowls, must look out for rubs".

  • Flamebait (Score:3, Funny)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:33AM (#42806895)

    Flamebait "study" provokes flames. News at eleven. I'm waiting for the next study showing the correlation climate alarmism and being a poo-poo head.

  • The horse crap in this one is so deep I can barely see the light. Does anybody else remember that paper on sociology that turned out to be a joke composed of mostly made-up words, but the sociology community accepted it and praised it in some journal? It was the Sokal Affair ( []) and the article was "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," an article that sounds about as interesting as this one.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:46AM (#42806943) Homepage

    The very mention of thumb awareness makes you immediately more aware of your thumbs. That is unless you don't have any in which case you are increasingly aware of that fact.

  • Yada Yada Yada (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:57AM (#42806979)
    Wow someone writes a paper on conspiracy theory and targets it slap bang at climate sceptics and then complains when they cry fowl! It's like calling someone paranoid when people really are out to get them!
    • You've got the causality backwards. The theory evaluated conspiracy theorists' tendencies to believe in climate change, not climate change deniers' tendencies to conspiracy theory. That's an interesting but significant difference, because the implications are different (in this case, that conspiratorial thinking leads to a more generalised rejection of orthodoxy).

    • Re:Yada Yada Yada (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:48AM (#42807201)

      You're interpreting this the exact wrong way. They found a link. There's nothing wrong with that. And they didn't cry "foul" (fixed that for you). They made another research paper that actually *SUPPORTED* their original paper. They didn't say all climate skeptics are conspiratorial nuts. They just said conspiratorial nuts are climate skeptics as well. That shouldn't be taken as offense by climate skeptics, unless you are indeed a conspiratorial nut.

  • Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation
  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:58AM (#42807253)

    If you make a habit of reading polls on a a variety of political and social issues, you'll learn a lot about Americans and specifically you might come to the conclusion that about 25-35% of Americans are basically so disconnected from scientific and social reality they're functionally insane and their opinion should ALWAYS and AUTOMATICALLY be classified as "non-truth related".

    For instance, and famously, about 46% of Americans don't believe in evolution

    But also 10% think that prosecutors who send innocent people to jail should not be prosecuted:,0,3950542.story?page=2

    25% think Obama is not an American citizen: []

    30%^ think God decides the outcome of sporting events: []

    And on and on and on. Watching polls what you'll discover is about 10% of Americans are just outright fascists who wouldn't hesitate to do whatever any right wing authority told them to do, and think it should have been started yesterday. This is also the finding of Bob Altemeyer in his seminal work on authoritarianism : [].


    About 25-30% believe that events on Earth are assiduously overseen by an all knowing God who "sees them when they're sleeping / and knows if they're awake / and knows if they've been bad of good..." and what happens in everything from their personal life to world events is really of no consequence except to the extent that it is a reflection of an eternal, ongoing battle between good and evil being fought on an unseen cosmic plane. This is something they have this is common with every Muslim extremist who ever strapped a suicide bomb onto himself.

    Americans have a deficit of rationality, a deep and persistent belief that something other than outcome based, welfare of humans is the proper measure of human morality, are scientifically illiterate and constitutionally incapable of perceiving in their thinking just the kinds of bugs that the referenced article details.

    There's not enough time to reform the American character before we have to take radical and decisive action on global warming. The fact is, democracy stops where science begins. This isn't going to lead to anything good.

    The least divisive, least disrupting course of action is for the government to internally and secretly set up an Executive Action team within one the intelligence agencies whose purpose is to discredit, attack and dismantle and neutralize the leaders of the denier terrorist movement. We all know who they are. These *thought leaders* need to be attacked the same way we'd attack any group of terrorists building a bomb named which would have the same long term destructive power as global warming. Denialism is a bomb with the capacity to permanently destroy civilization and the people assembling that bomb are not working in secret. They need to be neutralized and their sources of funding and societal legitimacy attacked through and and all means necessary. They have forfeited their civil rights and constitutional protections. We simply need to deal with them like the world destroying terrorists they are.

    You can come to this conclusion now when there's still time to do something about global warming or you can come to this conclusion later, when there's no possibility of doing anything about it and the starvation, the concomitant societal breakdown and mass, uncontrolled immigration, the tidal wave of anti-Western (Big Oil / Big Coal ) terrorism and collapsing centralized governments take not just the denier's civil liberties and Con

  • Political denial (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grunter ( 35840 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:08AM (#42807325) Homepage

    One thing that many who believe that climate change is a "scam" or a "conspiracy" have in common is a political outlook that says that lefties, socialists, hippies, greenies etc. are just plain WRONG about everything, that their entire world view is basically incorrect.

    So it really is hard for them to accept that the lefties and the greenies might be RIGHT about something - which seems to lead to ever more bizarre denials.

    The corollary of this is that people with this kind of viewpoint tend to believe that climate change is a stalking horse of the left, to de-industrialise the economy, to promote their "business-hating" ideals, etc.

  • "the presumption of nefarious intent"

    There is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that our contemporary institutions of government, media, academia, finance, etc. and the unholy alliances thereof have nothing BUT nefarious intent. It's only logical to assume that these people and groups are going to lie, cheat and obfuscate to fulfill their agenda at the expense of the vast majority of the population.

    The label "conspiracy theorist" is simply their dismissive label for anyone who dares question the off

  • by Martin S. ( 98249 ) <> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:17AM (#42807399) Homepage Journal

    Conspiratorial Thinking is clear example of the Dunning Kruger [] effect at work.

    They overestimate their own intelligence or skill, and ignore contrary feedback. They disavow the intelligence or skill of others. These people are simply too stupid to invalidate their own hypothesis and recognise the validity of the alternative.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:51AM (#42807593)

    If I assume there's more to a story than what appears in the mainstream media, I must be experiencing "conspiratorial thinking." Or I could be assuming that most journalists are morons who are paid to write *something* whether they know anything about it or not.

  • by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:52AM (#42807599)

    So, in the course of reading the article on ElReg, I noticed that the folks denying climate change are being referred to as "Skeptical".

    I get it - being "skeptical" of something means that you are not taking it at face value - that you dispute it.

    However, there's also the self-identified "Skeptical Movement" nowadays which consists of a lot of great folks who are trying to introduce science-based thought and skepticism / critical thinking.

    I'm talking about folks like Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame), Phil Plait (of "Bad Astronomy"), Brian Duning's Skeptoid, The Skeptic's guide to the Universe,, the James Randi Educational Foundation, QackCast, and many many more...

    Real science-based medicine and thinking... and to see "Skeptical" with a capitol S, I think of these folks and having the word used to refer to conspiracy nuts and climate deniers... well, it just feels like the same kind of co-opting that happened to the "hacker" monicker.

    I guess I just wanted to get the word out that while the climate deniers and conspiracy nuts may be "skeptical" of climate change and such, they're not representative of "the Skeptical Movement" which is all about critical thinking and science-based approach to life, the universe, and everything.

  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:20AM (#42807859)

    The problem here is that the conspiratorial thinking that was invoked was was on the part of Lewandowsky. Rather than taking the critiques of his abandoned first paper as legitimate, he immediately decided that anyone disagreeing with him must be part of a conspiracy against him.

    My prediction - when this second paper is also taken apart as a fraud, he'll write a third one saying everyone who disagreed with his second one is part of a conspiracy of conspiritorial thinking :)

    • What do you mean "abandoned"? The first paper is listed on his publications page as being accepted for publication by Psychological Science. Given the usual academic journal turn-around times it seems like it passed peer review with flying colours.

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