What psychological functions do conspiracy theories have?
At times, the lines can blur between subjectively perceived reality, public and media interpretation, and disseminated alternative facts. This is why, from a psychological perspective, the existence of conspiracy theories makes sense. After all, they have an important role in meaning-making, especially in circumstances that are filled with uncertainty such as during the coronavirus pandemic. By blocking out everything that is random or complex, reality suddenly seems easier to understand, and self-efficacy, that is one’s ability to master difficult situations, is affirmed. Situations are anticipated, in other words prepared for mentally, and this, in short, means that a sense of security is generated.
For this reason, those who believe in conspiracy theories feel drawn to a strong, authoritarian figure – one who makes them feel they belong to a nation state and who creates a sense of identity and cohesion as a monoethnic community.
What makes us believe in conspiracy theories?
We asked different people about whether or not they believe in conspiracy theories. The result is this documentary, which also features the input of social psychologist Pia Lamberty from the Center for Monitoring, Analysis, and Strategy (CeMAS) and the systemic consultant Annabelle Mattick of Berlin’s counseling center for those affected by conspiracy theory narratives (veritas).