ga('require', 'displayfeatures');

Friday, July 19, 2019

Understanding and Combating Conspiracy Theories: Exploring the Emotional Needs Behind Beliefs


This morning on my way to work, I heard a radio ad for a show about government secrets. It made me realize that conspiracy theories are becoming more popular and mainstream these days. They're all over social media, from Facebook to Twitter. So, I wanted to write about how we can combat this trend.


First, let's talk about why people might believe in these theories. The truth is, it makes them feel good and safe. They might feel like they have a purpose in life to make the world a better place, or they might feel smarter than other people. Or, they might feel less scared because they have a community of like-minded people. But ultimately, it's our insecurities and fears that drive us to crave these theories. And yes, that includes you and me, whether we realize it or not.


When we're stressed, our brains crave rewards, which is why many of us have been eating more during lockdown. It's not just limited to food though. We all crave things that make us feel good. People who believe in conspiracy theories might have high IQs, but they still have a need to feel good, just like everyone else. Intelligence alone doesn't bring happiness, and we've all given in to our vices at some point.

Especially now, when good feelings are hard to come by, it's understandable to want something that makes you feel good. It's like that classic line, "Don't do this to me right now, I need the fantasy!" But it's hard to convince someone to change their beliefs, and even harder to realize that we might be just as susceptible to certain beliefs.

People won't change their minds unless they feel respected and have an incentive to change. If someone tells you something that goes against your beliefs, it's natural to lose respect for them. This can be especially damaging if you turn out to be wrong about something important. But if you want to change someone's mind, you have to give them a reason to believe that thinking the way you do will make them feel better.

It's important to understand what insecurities are driving someone to believe in conspiracy theories. Try to give them what they need emotionally in a healthy way. And most importantly, reflect on your own beliefs and insecurities. If everyone took the time to do this, the world would be a better place.