Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories [From psychological perspectives part 2]


Remember Eric Oliver’s and Thomas Wood’s explanation of conspiracy theory? The goal is to “Shape mass opinion”. So the next step that conspiracy author will do is to share the conspiracy theory to the world. So the author will share his/her idea to communities, medias, etc.

This is the time when Cognitive dissonance experienced to the person who is exposed to the theory. Cognitive dissonance is experienced when a person knows more than 2 theories or beliefs that contradict or the opposite of each other.

To gain stability and consistency, the person usually tolerates or condone one theory and deny the one that contradicts it. In this context, the person who exposed to the conspiracy theory will have conflict in their own mind until he/she will make up their mind and choose one belief or value. Here are several mental processes that influenced people to believe in conspiracy theory :

  1. Information Cascade = When a person abandons and even denied their information that he/she get from his/her observation or analysis to be replaced by earlier people actions and the result of earlier people observation and analysis. The tendency for people believed a conspiracy theory without being skeptic or critical. The result is inaccurate fact or reality.
  2. Bandwagon effect = When the probability of one individual belief in one theory heavily depended on the number of people who believed in the theory. This explains why internet became the main community of the conspiracist. Because with the internet, the growing progress of the number of people who believe in the theory will be visible to other people and can boost up the motivation of other people to join the community.

There are probably many more of mental process that influence of people believes in a conspiracy theory, but my opinion those are the one that influences the most.


As we discussed in the previous post (part 1), people make conspiracy theories because of their lack of control, power, and explanation. So our brain automatically makes an explanation to explain the ambiguous situation. After having an idea, the author will try to confirm and to convince us so we will be convinced of that theory. Because of that, we know that the process of making conspiracy theory is full of bias and irrationality.

If we not carefully processed those theories. Our mental process that should help us, could actually plunge us into the world full of irrationality. So we need to carefully evaluate our decision so we will not be trapped in biases like information cascade, bandwagon effect, etc. So always think twice about our decision and try to be critical thinkers.

Tell us what conspiracy theory that you believe and why you believe it in the comment box below! If you don’t, what do you think about these conspiracy theories that were very popular on the internet lately!


Oliver, J., & Wood, T. (2014). Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass
Opinion. American Journal of Political Science, 58(4), 952-966. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24363536

Cognitive dissonance. (2017, July 01). Retrieved July 28, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

Information cascade. (2017, July 27). Retrieved July 28, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_cascade

Bandwagon effect. (2017, July 12). Retrieved July 28, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwagon_effect

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