In your lifetime, you may have heard from your loved one some extraordinary stories they experienced. These stories can be the landing on the moon being merely orchestrated by NASA, that the 9-11 attack came from the White House itself, that there’s a secret group controlling the entire world, or that aliens are always in contact with us. These are called conspiracy theories.
We all do something, ranging from quirky to self-destructive, that seem on the surface to have no benefit at all. — Teri Woods Ph.D.
Some cognitive biases cause the appeal of conspiracy theories which are not the only operative in the context of conspiracies but are also evident in your daily encounters with your loved ones. Hence, understanding the idea and psychology behind conspiracy theories may shed light on how you can determine some behavioral patterns and belief systems of your loved one.
- Confirmation Bias
This bias happens when people claim something to be true basically because they want it to be true. Even despite the lack of complete information, there has already been a prior judgment on their part.
Given a multitude of evidence, they would accept only those proofs which confirm their pre-judged conclusions and reject those that challenge it. It means that people with confirmation bias do not view observations objectively and have been bound by their assumptions.
Ever had a situation with your partner when you try to explain that there’s no “other one” but she keeps insisting it because she has judged way too early? The next few minutes will undoubtedly heat up into a quarrel. Even the slightest proof that there may be someone else would be the deal breaker. It helps that you get to identify this confirmation bias early on so you may defend yourself better, if applicable of course.
… a superstition is the belief that specific actions will directly influence an outcome in ways that go against scientific knowledge or logical procession (like my belief that declaring my team would win before the game was over would somehow ensure their defeat). — Emily Green Psy.D.
- Proportionality Bias
Proportionality bias happens when people think that the magnitude of an event’s effects is proportional to the magnitude of its causes. Therefore, a significant happening, with widespread repercussions on people and places, must have an enormous mastermind, a bigger picture that is in control. While this may seem real, the opposite can often be the case. Proportionality bias motivates people to explain the unexplainable and the greatest depths of the unknown through bigger forces.
Does your partner worry so much about intense headaches thinking that it’s brain tumor while disregarding slight coughs for just a weather issue? While this may be true, headaches could also be caused merely by fatigue and minor coughs may be driven by more serious internal health problems. This proportionality bias may cause paranoia and anxiety so be careful in helping your partner weigh causes and effects more sensibly.
- Illusory Pattern Perception
As the name suggests, this happens when people perceive patterns which are merely imaginary, those which aren’t really there. They tend to connect different events or irrelevant stimuli and subsequently relate a pattern out of it, which then becomes their basis in evaluating future circumstances with the slightest similarity. These illusory patterns reflect the brain’s automatic response to things it can’t easily comprehend.
Perception is not fact, although perception continually impacts belief, and, although sensation largely may be aligned with fact, perception is always an interpretation of sensory experience. — Ann Olson Psy.D.
Did you experience almost thinking that your partner is going to propose because you feel you’ve “connected the dots”? Well, you’re both at the right age and gainfully employed. He’s been having frequent communication with your family, and you accidentally spotted a small red box just the size of a ring near his stuff. Voila! It’s just a gift for your anniversary. Beware of these illusory partners to keep you sane and normalize expectations. You know what I mean?
The same psychological behavior behind people’s belief in conspiracy theories also operates in very much all aspects of every person’s life. Conspiracy theories continue to linger because they appeal to all people and mindsets – rational or irrational, optimistic or pessimistic – and whether or not they’re correct, they have changed much of every person’s perspectives and worldviews so radically than ever.