Why Do We Believe in Conspiracy Theories?


I find conspiracy theories fascinating. We’re surrounded by them in all aspects of life. It amazes me not only how they come to prevalence but how people can believe some of them. One of my favourites is that Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a clone. Now, I don’t think it’s true, but don’t you think it’s interesting how people have come to believe that it is?

Even if you say you don’t believe in conspiracy theories, chances are there is at least one that you do believe. It might just be that you think governments have had contact with aliens and not told us. From the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot to the belief that the Queen killed Princess Diana or that Hitler faked his own death, some theories are more extreme than others. But what makes so many of us believe in conspiracy theories? Especially the more ridiculous ones?

To Exert Control

The average, everyday citizen has little control compared to those high up in governments. We don’t know when and if governments are telling the truth or not. When faced with big events which have seemingly no logical explanation, people seek to control what they don’t know. The moon landing seems like such a far-off concept because the majority of the population will never experience it for themselves. For some, the idea that there is so much more out there in the universe is scary. If they believe that the moon landings were faked, they can then reduce their world back to what we know on Earth, and feel more in control.

To Understand

There is so much about the world that we don’t know – from things that nobody knows, to what governments know but won’t tell us. It makes sense that in order to understand big events, people come up with theories to explain them. Did Bush really orchestrate 9/11? Probably not, but with such a catastrophe, people need to explain it somehow and want someone to blame. In blaming the US government, they can lay the fault on something/someone they already hate and fit this in to their world view without altering what they thought they knew before the disaster.

Proportionality Bias

With big, catastrophic events, some people feel that the cause must be as great as the impact. Therefore, rather than explaining it with something small, they seek to find an excuse that is just as big. How could the president of America, and thus one of the most important people in the world, be shot by one person working alone? Surely a man of that significance must have been killed by more than one person?In explaining JFK’s death proportionally, it seems less scary to think that he had to be shot down by several people, rather than just one lone man.

Social Media

While social media may not explain exactly why people believe in conspiracy theories, it has increased the ease of access and communication about conspiracy theories. This now makes it easier for people to discover new conspiracy theories and for the world to discuss them. Twitter threads discussing conspiracy theories circulate and suddenly people hear about theories that never would have occurred to them otherwise.


2019/2020 Deputy Editor. English grad with a love for giraffes, tea and travel.

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