Updated: Feb 8, 2022
EVENT DATE : JANUARY 25
A conspiracy theory is an idea that a group of people is working together in secret to accomplish evil goals.
Such theories are nothing new but it seems now they are no longer limited to the periphery of society. They've become powerful forces mobilising and locking millions into a common, warped belief system. From Holocaust deniers to those who believe the NASA moon landing was staged; from believers of Illuminati to those who dismiss Evolution or refute Climate Change, followers of Conspiracy Theories are not only victims of but also active propogators of misinformation across the world.
During the early stages of the current pandemic, we saw the internet flooded with elaborate speculations around the virus, from theories of international bio-warfare to those arguing that the virus was a hoax. While most people dismiss such unfounded theories as harmless noise, they seem to capture and sustain the attention of significant number of people. This group doesn’t just believe in, but clings on these theories even when they defy logic, are contradicted by available evidence and are dismissed by experts and the mainstream society.
This is not a subject for amusement, as belief in such theories can have dangerous consequences, as observed last year in the mob violence on Capitol Hill or the multiple incidents of lynchings in India triggered by viral WhatsApp messages.
How to deal with this? How to prevent people from falling for them? How to reason with someone fixated on an obvious conspiracy theory?
To answer these questions, we need to take a step back and understand the origins and drivers of such theories, and what makes some people more susceptible to believing them. To guide us through this we have with us a prominent expert in Behavioural Sciences, Dr. Cailin O'Connor.
Dr. O'Connor is Associate Professor in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, and a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at the University of California Irvine. She has co-authored the book “The Misinformation Age" and authored the book “Games In the Philosophy of Biology".