Difference between revisions of "Fallout from the Message"

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Latest revision as of 00:04, 6 November 2019

Conspiracy theories (CTs) can take many forms and vary widely in popularity, the intensity with which they are believed and their effects on individual and collective behavior. An integrated account of CTs thus needs to explain how they come to appeal to potential believers, how they spread from one person to the next via communication, and how they motivate collective action. We summarize these aspects under the labels of stick, spread, and action. We propose the quasi-religious hypothesis for CTs: drawing on cognitive science of religion, social representations theory, and frame theory. We use cognitive science of religion to describe the main features of the content of CTs that explain how they come to stick: CTs are quasi-religious representations in that their contents, forms and functions parallel those found in beliefs of institutionalized religions. However, CTs are quasi-religious in that CTs and the communities that support them, lack many of the institutional features of organized religions. We use social representations theory to explain how CTs spread as devices for making sense of sudden events that threaten existing worldviews. CTs allow laypersons to interpret such events by relating them to common sense, thereby defusing some of the anxiety that those events generate. We use frame theory to explain how some, but not all CTs mobilize collective counter-conspiratorial action by identifying a target and by proposing credible and concrete rationales for action. We specify our integrated account in 13 propositions.

We propose the quasi-religious hypothesis for CTs: CTs are quasi-religious representations, in that their contents, forms, and functions parallel those found in beliefs supported by institutionalized religions, though CTs lack certain features of organized religions. Being quasi-religious offers an explanation of CTs’ ubiquity, especially in postindustrial secular societies. But CTs appeal especially to constituencies who are averse to the strictures of organized religions or established political orthodoxies. CTs have a subversive flavor that contradicts official accounts of events, be they secular or religious. This feature is difficult to explain via cognitive science, but is a primary focus of social representations theory. Social representations theory explains how CTs enable laypersons to make sense of complex, ambiguous situations, how CTs spread, and how they may change during spreading. However, social representations theory does not focus primarily on how representations get used by social groups to achieve political ends, and so we invoke frame theory to deal with this aspect.

Our key claim is that CTs have contents and functions that are quasi-religious: there is an analogy between religious beliefs and some of the ways in which CTs typically construe the issue and the conspirators. There is, however, no predicted homology between CTs and religious beliefs – they are not identical in content, structure or function, nor is there any predicted relation between religiosity – the tendency to hold religious beliefs – and the tendency to hold CTs. Indeed, the value of a scientific analogy is partly in the ways in which the two domains match and partly in the way in which they do not; as we note below, both may be empirically informative.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712257/

Also https://www.wired.com/story/online-conspiracy-groups-qanon-cults/




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