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Why people latch on to conspiracy theories, according to scienceB Y J I L L I A N K R A M E R ( A B R I D G E D B Y C A R O L S T A N L A N D )P U B L I S H E D J A N U A R Y 8 , 2 0 2 1Insurgents who swarmed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 believed that the presidential election was stolen—abelief encouraged by a powerful and trusted leader. But the idea that the election was rigged is,bydefinition, a conspiracy theory—an explanation for events that relies on the assertion that powerfulpeople are dishonestly manipulating society. In reality,the U.S. Justice Department has found no evidence ofwidespread voter fraud.Experts say that the majority of people do not easily fall for falsehoods. But when misinformation offerssimple, casual explanations for otherwise random events, “it helps restore a sense of agency and control formany people,” saysSander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge.The misinformationconstantly swirling around usis now set against the backdrop of the pandemic, anunemployment crisis, mass demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice, and a deeplypolarizing presidential election. During times of turmoil, the explanations provided by conspiracy theoriesand other falsehoods can be even more appealing—though not impossible to discourage or resist.The allure of conspiracies in a chaotic world

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Term
Fall
Professor
cortez
Tags
Psychology, Conspiracy theory, van der Linden

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