The psychology of the CT believers

deirdre

Senior Member.
Well of course I'm delusional, to some degree. Who isn't? ;)
That's what I'm saying. you are quoting a woman talking about cognitive behavioral therapy for Grandiose Delusions [a medical term], and applying it to everyone who believes a random youtube video peddling misunderstanding or purposeful misinformation. That is highly inappropriate, untrue, (and technically breaks the politeness policy).
 

Rory

Senior Member.
You are quoting a woman talking about cognitive behavioral therapy for Grandiose Delusions [a medical term], and applying it to everyone who believes a random youtube video peddling misunderstanding or purposeful misinformation. That is highly inappropriate and untrue.
I think you might be misunderstanding me. Number one, the reason I posted that quote was because it inspired me to go on a line of thinking, and appeared to tie in with certain other things I've been thinking lately: namely, that our beliefs have more to do with our self-identity than we perhaps realise, and that challenges to our beliefs are therefore more threatening, and more strenuously defended, than we expect them to be.

Number two, if it came across that I was saying that "everyone who believes a random youtube video peddling misinformation" is suffering from the medical condition 'Grandiose Delusions', I certanly didn't intend that, nor do I feel that to be the case.

I've added a sentence to the original post to make that explicit.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
Number two, if it came across that I was saying that "everyone who believes a random youtube video peddling misinformation" is suffering from the medical condition 'Grandiose Delusions', I certanly didn't intend that, nor feel that to be the case.
oh good. thanks for clarifying that for readers.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Any time. :)

And going back to an earlier post...
A schizophrenic believing they are a secret service agent in order not to have a mental breakdown is a bit different from a non-mentally ill woman believing a youtube video she watched.
I agree, it's different. But I wouldn't be surprised if there are parallels.

I was struck recently by some interactions I've been having on facebook, but with friends, about a seemingly benign topic - the idea many people still have that periods are linked to the moon. The strength of support for this, in the face of overwhelming evidence, was surprising, and totally out of balance with the implications of it not being true, which seem inconsequential to me. And this wasn't just from women, but also from men: they simply abhor the idea that there's nothing in it and get hyper-defensive.

Why? It has to be something more deep-seated than a simple debate over facts.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Why? It has to be something more deep-seated than a simple debate over facts.

Being wrong feels bad, so people subconsciously try to not be wrong from their own perspective, even if that results in being more objectively wrong. Basically, it's the human tendency against cognitive dissonance:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency in order to mentally function in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and so is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance, by making changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance, or by actively avoiding social situations and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.
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Rory

Senior Member.
Being wrong feels bad, so people subconsciously try to not be wrong from their own perspective, even if that results in being more objectively wrong.
I agree. But then the question that occurs to me is "why?"

Why is it that not everyone experiences "being wrong" as "bad"? What's the difference between those that do and those that don't?

Personally speaking, being wrong doesn't bother me too much because all it means is I've learned something new and I'm going to be less wrong in the future. There's no threat from encountering someone smarter than me. There's no shame in not knowing everything or being perfect, since that's completely natural.

That said, I do sometimes sense slightly more resistance to adjusting to the new information if I've had more of myself invested in whatever I was wrong about.

I want to propose that the reason being wrong feels different degrees of bad to different people, and is therefore met with different degrees of resistance, is dependent on where their sense of self lies, how healthy their ego is, et cetera.

Though I know the real answer to this is to go away and do some proper reading. ;)
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
As for the psychology of debunkers, I've mused upon that. From what I've seen, I think many, including myself, have Autistic traits. Highly analytical, concerned with fact over personal relationships. Obsessed with the truth. Untruth really bumps us. I call that Dr. Zhivago Syndrome.

My obsession with odd people and odd beliefs, from TV preachers to Ufologists, often puzzles "normal" people who don't at all care. "Are you coming to bed?" "No, someone on the Internet is wrong."

It's a kind of odd dance between people who have opposite traits.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
Maybe we should also have a thread on the psychology of debunkers.

In some ways debunker and believers are quite similar.
Blimey: I see that Mick already suggested this way back in 2013.

I know there is already the thread about 'confronting our own biases', which addresses certain aspects of "the psychology of debunkers". I also notice that there's next to nothing online about the subject online - which is understandable, given how niche and generally harmless debunking is.

I'm interested in it, though, and maybe others are too. Seems like doing an analysis of ourselves would be an addition to the canon, and a balance to the current thread - and something that would require a decent level of self-awareness, honesty, vulnerability, and humility, as well as a desire to know oneself better, which are all generally regarded as positive things.

I wonder how the debunking mind would fare in applying its analytical skills to itself?
 
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benotto

New Member
Dealing with anomolies in truth and reason for me depends on my needs to depend on the other.

It would not matter they were otherwise really nice folks with any really strong unusual belief if I only said hello every morn on the way to work.

If the subway train derailed and everyone needed to step up in some capacity to save everyone possible I might not be amused if all they could do was pray.
To me its time to ACT and get us all out of that tunnel.

But then is my solution the most correct one for all? Maybe not. Most likely not.
I might be the deluded one.

Apply that to Ancient Alien theorists and their hairdressers it really does not matter to me if a 5000 year old drawing in Egypt and the Mayan calander concur that a mummy in Peru is of alien origins. Or whatever the theory of the moment is. It does not apply to any reality I know of.
Let them play. No one with any sense of logic or history will care.
 

Marin B

Active Member
I'm interested in it, though, and maybe others are too. Seems like doing an analysis of ourselves would be an addition to the canon, and a balance to the current thread - and something that would require a decent level of self-awareness, honesty, vulnerability, and humility, as well as a desire to know oneself better, which are all generally regarded as positive things.

I wonder how the debunking mind would fare in applying its analytical skills to itself?

I don't really consider myself a "debunker" since I don't do it as a hobby. I do it mostly just on occasions when I'm presented directly with misinformation. My first experience with it was soon after 9/11. I was on a distribution list for group emails from a former co-worker/friend that often included anti-muslim "facts". I doubted the information and would respond with a link to the subject on Snopes. Once I got a reply back from my co-worker expressing a bit of embarrassment and acknowledging that she should probably do a bit more research before passing along the information she gets. So it may have been that experience that encouraged me to counter misinformation when I see it instead of just ignoring it. I like to think of myself as not being biased in what I choose to debunk. I have a friend who will often post anti Trump memes on his social media, and many of them are blatantly wrong (to me anyway). So even though I consider myself politically progressive, I will challenge even misinformation about Trump, and try to do so as politely as possible. I haven't been unfriended yet :). I think I'm more likely to debunk something when it involves misinformation that I think could be harmful - and I believe that contributing to political polarization is harmful.
 

scombrid

Senior Member.
our beliefs have more to do with our self-identity than we perhaps realise,

I have what I think is real world example of that.

There is a stretch of river/marsh here that has become quite popular for commercial airboat tours. When the water is high the boats spread out over the marsh. When the water is low the boats are confined to the river channel which is very narrow, very shallow, and has river banks of sand and/or organic peat. These boats seat 6 to 20 passengers depending on the vessel. You can imagine the impact of a vessel with loaded weight >2000 kilograms has as it runs 5-10 trips per day over the same little stretch of river. You can imagine what 6-10 of those vessels running a combined 30 -100 trips per day does when they run the same patch of water over and over again. That stretch of river is turning into a desolate mud hole.

Sorry for the long background.

More than one of the commercial airboat captains has approached me (I'm a fish biologist) to complain that the cast-netters are destroying the river with their nets. They complain that the nets are stirring up the bottom and the cast netters are walking on the banks and trampling the plants.

The airboat captains are proud to be "Florida Crackers". They see themselves as rough and tumble men (and one woman in this case) of wild Florida taking the yankee tourists out into nature. They believe that they and the ranchers in the area are the keepers of "real Florida".

The cast netters are all ethnic minorities harvesting exotic fish (Brown Hoplo) for market and personal consumptions. These guys are "outsiders". The cast netters are doing us a favor by harvesting an invasive species.

So the airboat captains are observing that the river habitat is very degraded. They truly believe that the "racial epithets" are destroying the river. They honestly believe that a few guys throwing little monofilament nets in the backwaters where the Brown Hoplo live are causing a substantial portion of the erosion and muddy water whereas their very large and heavy airboats that they run right against the river bank at high speed are gliding along without causing a disturbance. They get extremely (like red in the face shouting level) defensive and angry if you suggest that boat wash is a factor in the condition of the river.

It takes a high degree of cognitive dissonance to maintain that belief. They deliberately create "airboat trails" through the marsh just by running the same track over and over again. Those trails get dug out to the point that you can run a regular boat down them. But they maintain that they aren't contributing to erosion of the river banks.

Acknowledging that they are having negative impact on the river would be a threat to their identity as keepers/stewards of real Florida as well as a threat to their livelihood (if they see it as possible that the state might 'regulate' them).

So they unconsciously scapegoat the "outsiders" that are invading their turf. One even approached me this week complaining that the cast netters were depriving the alligators of food by taking "all the fish". Law enforcement checks the cast netters pretty frequently. They aren't harvesting "all the fish". They harvest Tilapia and Hoplo, both invasive exotics. It is illegal to take bream and bass with a net and nobody harvests gar and bowfin which are the majority of fish biomass there and the primary gator foods. But the airboat tour operators observed that the number of gators dropped off. Rather than consider that the gators moved because of there being up to 100 airboat trips per day on that stretch of river, they believe that the cast netters are at fault. Keep in mind that gators like to lie on the river bank and sun themselves during the cool season. Airboats like to run right against the river bank in the shallowest water. What is a gator going to do if it gets chased into the water over and over and over and over again day after day?
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
Apropos:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-deception#Trivers'_theory

It has been theorized that humans are susceptible to self-deception because most people have emotional attachments to beliefs, which in some cases may be irrational.

Some evolutionary biologists, such as Robert Trivers, have suggested that deception plays a significant part in human behavior, and in animal behavior, more generally speaking. One deceives oneself to trust something that is not true as to better convince others of that truth. When a person convinces himself of this untrue thing, they better mask the signs of deception.

This notion is based on the following logic: deception is a fundamental aspect of communication in nature, both between and within species. It has evolved so that one can have an advantage over another. From alarm calls to mimicry, animals use deception to further their survival. Those who are better able to perceive deception are more likely to survive. As a result, self-deception evolved to better mask deception from those who perceive it well, as Trivers puts it: "Hiding the truth from yourself to hide it more deeply from others." In humans, awareness of the fact that one is acting deceptively often leads to tell-tale signs of deception, such as nostrils flaring, clammy skin, quality and tone of voice, eye movement, or excessive blinking. Therefore, if self-deception enables someone to believe her or his own distortions, they will not present such signs of deception and will therefore appear to be telling the truth.
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Self-deception is a trait that has been selected for. If you follow the logic, the most aggressive people should be the most self-deceptive

People have a baseline for any trait, and there is also a situational component.

In a situation where a person or group feels threatened aggression goes up. A mild person by nature becomes more aggressive. An aggressive person by nature becomes very aggressive. People within a Group under stress tend to model their beliefs/behavior on aggressive leaders. Levels of self-deception will grow.
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
That is fascinating stuff, and really something worth thinking about.

In a different sphere, I recently came across some fairly obvious but deeply ingrained self-deception, and it was very odd and interesting to deal with.

One question that occurs to me might be why nature/evolution/natural selection provided for "tell-tale signs of deception" - or are they really offshoots and symptoms of "feeling threatened"?

Perceiving threat, I feel, is really at the heart of so much of this. If our self-identity and psychological coping mechanism is so closely wrapped up in our beliefs, any challenge to those beliefs feels like a threat to our very being, and must be batted off and defended against.

If, however, our beliefs aren't critical to our sense of self, any challenge to them is merely seen as interesting, a point for discussion and investigation, and an objective, external, and maybe even amusing phenomenon.

To live without a requirement for beliefs seems like the ideal, to me, and to have one's sense of self rooted in something a little more secure.

And, with regard to CT interactions, to really remember that, for the large part, it's not an evidence- or facts-based discussion, but a beliefs-based discussion, and beliefs rarely change overnight, or through being badgered.

Thanks for keeping posting these snippets and insights. They're fascinating to ponder, and anything that helps the debunker become less frustrated and more tolerant and understanding is pure gold.

Cheers. :)
 

Critical Thinker

Senior Member.
A new word for me and (perhaps) additional insight into what impacts the thought process of Conspiracy Theorists and all of us to some degree.

From ScienceAlert: This Mathematical Concept Could Explain Why Anti-Vaxxers Just Don't Give Up


"Given all the benefits of vaccination, it's been a struggle to understand why vaccination rates can remain stubbornly low," says lead author Feng Fu, a mathematical biologist at Dartmouth.

"History matters, and we now know that hysteresis is part of the answer."

Hysteresis, which roughly translates to "remaining" in Greek, is essentially what happens when the past comes back to haunt the present.
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The new research suggests that at least part of this resistance may be due to a lingering sense of unease, brought about by negative past events like the MMR-autism debacle.

It's memories like these, no matter how scientifically inaccurate, that create a negative history, trapping society in a hysteresis loop and stiffening public resolve against vaccines.
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"Once people question the safety or effectiveness of a vaccine, it can be very difficult to get them to move beyond those negative associations," explains Fu.

In other words, when society gets stuck in one of these loops, it can create a sort of friction, slowing the recovery of vaccination rates and leaving us all vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
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We have seen where a CTer uses (alleged) evidence of a group of people doing something in the past to support their case that there is an conspiracy by people now, regardless of the fact that the referenced deed and people are unrelated to the current conspiracy theory and people they say are involved. I've seen CTers reference MKUltra, Smallpox blankets, Operation Northwoods as some sort of proof that 'Government has done things like that in the past, so... they are probably doing [insert conspiracy theory] now'
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
Thanks for keeping posting these snippets and insights. They're fascinating to ponder, and anything that helps the debunker become less frustrated and more tolerant and understanding is pure gold.
To accomplish that, it's probably best for skeptics/debunkers to armchair psycho-analyze THEMSELVES. While it is normal to become emotional when people attack victims of violent crime or threaten to shoot planes out of the sky (a very rare occurance), it isn't normal to get that frustrated over people who believe the Earth is Flat.
 

Critical Thinker

Senior Member.
From ScienceAlert: Researchers Say They've Figured Out Why People Reject Science, And It's Not Ignorance


Excerpts from the article


One of the biggest cultural shifts in recent years is the rise of fake news - where claims with no evidence behind them (e.g. the world is flat) get shared as fact alongside evidence-based, peer-reviewed findings (e.g. climate change is happening).


Researchers have coined this trend the 'anti-enlightenment movement', and there's been a lot of frustration and finger-pointing over who or what's to blame.
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The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they 'cherry pick' the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.
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"We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,"
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So where is this denial of science coming from? A big part of the problem, the researchers found, is that people associate scientific conclusions with political or social affiliations.

New research conducted by Kahan showed that people have actually always cherry picked facts when it comes to science - that's nothing new. But it hasn't been such a big problem in the past, because scientific conclusions were usually agreed on by political and cultural leaders, and promoted as being in the public's best interests.
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So how can we do better?

"Rather than taking on people's surface attitudes directly, tailor the message so that it aligns with their motivation," said Hornsey. "So with climate skeptics, for example, you find out what they can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with these."
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Critical Thinker

Senior Member.
From ScienceAlert: There's a Troubling Link Between Believing Conspiracy Theories And Petty Crime


People who believe in conspiracy theories might be more likely to engage in petty crime, and no, this is not a conspiracy.

A new study from researchers at the University of Kent and Staffordshire University in the UK has demonstrated a link between this type of thinking and how people feel about, uh, not acting entirely lawfully.


"Our research has shown for the first time the role that conspiracy theories can play in determining an individual's attitude to everyday crime," explains psychologist Karen Douglas, from the University of Kent.

"It demonstrates that people subscribing to the view that others have conspired might be more inclined toward unethical actions."
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"As expected, belief in conspiracy theories was significantly positively correlated with everyday crime behaviours," explained the researchers in their paper.
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The research has been published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.
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