"Conspiracy theory/Academic research"

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Concept.png "Conspiracy theory/Academic research"
(Cover up,  deep state denialism)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Conspiracy Chart 2021.png
Conspiracy Chart from "mis and disinformation researcher" Abbie Richards[1]
Like "terrorism research", this is long on assumptions and short on empirical investigation (especially of the historical record). It is part of a project to demonize any criticism of official narratives and promote deep state denialism.

Definitely not to be confused with research into conspiracies or other deep political matters

The academic study of "conspiracy theories" is modern part of an larger project to undermine criticism of government and cover-up the existence of deep state groups. The phrase "conspiracy theory" was used to that end since the CIA's use of Operation Mockingbird to try to sure up the findings of the Warren Commission.

Such research typically makes implicit assumptions that equate suspicion of official narratives with mental illness and confine it to a subset of the population. This done, it projects onto these "conspiracy theorists". Research in this area embodies projection; paranoid orientation (Kernberg) and delusion (i.e. persecution mania) do in fact exist, and are disproportionately represented in leadership positions, such as those carrying out academic research.[2][3][4][5]


The first burst of academic research into "conspiracy theories" was in the 1990s.[citation needed] A 2018 paper reported that the "scientific study of belief in conspiracy theories has developed rapidly in the past decade."[6]

As of 2020, the area was actively researching public perceptions of COVID-19, including its origins.[7]

Official narrative

Western democracies may occasionally deceive people, but the existence of a "free press" makes it is impossible that this could be anything more than an isolated few bad apples. Widespread systemic corruption is unthinkable.

In the 21st century, increasing numbers of marginalised people are mistrustful of their "democratic" governments. They are "susceptible"[8] to material on the internet which advocates false and misleading "conspiracy theories", which are psychologically appealing even without credible evidence.

Academic study of the psychological flaws of "conspiracy theorists" could potentially help:-

  • Identify factors which psychologically predispose people to the deluded "conspiracy mindset";
  • "Inoculate" of such people against suspicion of official narratives;
  • Re-engage such people into the political process.
  • Automate "fact checking" to detect/remove incorrect or misleading material from the internet .


The academic study of "conspiracy theories" makes a range of often hidden assumptions, most importantly that these theories are incorrect, irrational (driven by emotional reasoning and therefore pernicious. For example, a 2018 paper stated that

“they are emotional given that negative emotions and not rational deliberations cause conspiracy beliefs... One limitation... is that the field is lacking a solid theoretical framework that contextualizes previous findings, that enables novel predictions, and that suggests interventions to reduce the prevalence of conspiracy theories in society.”
Jan-Willem van Prooijen,  Karen M. Douglas (2018)  [9]

The Third Rail

Academic research on "conspiracy theories" almost never[If ever?] reflects on the truth or falsehood of particular theories. While rare papers concede that conspiracies do happen and that theorising about them can assist correction of the historical record, the general pattern is to include under the label "conspiracy theory".

“Work in online misinformation details how alternative media intentionally fabricate conspiracy theories, spreading false allegations ranging from reptilian presidents to staged terrorist attacks”
Karen M. Douglas,  Robbie M. Sutton,  Aleksandra Cichocka (June 2017)  The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories [10]

Historical inaccuracy

Research into "conspiracy theory" appears sometimes almost determinedly uninformed by historical research into conspiracies. The phrase "conspiracy theory" was launched in the 1960s by the CIA to try to undermine criticism of the Warren Commission's report.[11] Few [If any?] academics in the field have acknowledged this essential piece of background, an ommission indicative of either woeful ignorance or willful deception.

Minority status

Generally unspoken is the assumption that only a small minority subscribe to "conspiracy theories", notwithstanding evidence to the contrary. This is often implicit, as when Roland Imhoff and Pia Karoline Lamberty argue that

“a small part in motivating the endorsement of such seemingly irrational beliefs is the desire to stick out from the crowd, the need for uniqueness.”
Roland Imhoff,  Pia Karoline Lamberty (2016)  [12]

They state in their conclusion that

“[Conspiracy beliefs] are — almost by definition — not shared by the majority of people.”
Roland Imhoff,  Pia Karoline Lamberty (2016)  [13]

This compares with the majority of the US population believing that the JFK assassination was carried out by a conspiracy, and a 2017 estimate of 60% of the US and UK population believing in at least one conspiracy theory.[14]

"Conspiratorial mindset"

Full article: Conspiratorial mindset

Most of the research papers presuppose the existence of a "conspiratorial mindset" (or conspiracy mentality) which is predisposed to believe accusations of conspiracy. They then attempt to characterise it in some way.[12] This is often regarded as independent of the nature of the conspiracy.


Academic research tries indirectly to equate believe in conspiracies with lower intelligence. Pia Lamberty: "People with lower formal education tend to be more likely to believe in conspiracies." (Menschen mit einer niedrigeren formalen Bildung glauben tendenziell eher an Verschwörungen.),[15] she goes on to qualify: "However, intelligence plays less of a role here than the feeling of having been left behind by society." (Allerdings spielt hier weniger Intelligenz eine Rolle, sondern das Gefühl, von der Gesellschaft abgehängt worden zu sein.). This is an ad hominem attack and insinuates a complex of inferiority. In another article however, co written with Roland Imhoff, she cites examples of what people, who believe in conspiracies, do believe:[16]

"Fort Detrick in Maryland houses biological laboratories of the highest security level, where researchers study epidemics on behalf of the U.S. military and the National Institutes of Health. Anyone can read about it on the Internet. What most don't know: At the end of the 1970s, the HI virus was bred here - in order to eradicate homosexuals and other undesirable parts of the population. However, it was unsuccessful, because AIDS does not actually exist. And if it did, it could easily be treated with aspirin, which the pharmaceutical industry conceals in order to profit from the disease. The culprits in all this are, of course, the Freemasons, who secretly rule the USA and are presumably all homosexuals."

They then go on to explain that this onslaught of irrationality is a proper example of what most (or all?) people in the conspiracy movement are concerned with. It gives the impression that the focus of their academic research is on the most illogical arguments that are to be found on the Internet, or combinations thereof created for the purpose, so as to be in the best position for the argument against conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy research

It appears to be taboo for research into "conspiracy theory" to review the available evidence for such beliefs. There are however a few authors who have published academic papers which look at the evidence of conspiracies (for example Amy Baker Benjamin, Lance deHaven-Smith or Peter Dale Scott).


Full article: Conspiracy theories/Academic research/Projection

Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule's work is an example of projection. It advocates "cognitive infiltration".[citation needed] The insinuated complex of inferiority might as well be a projection of the attacker.


The stigmatisation of those who doubt official pronouncements is accompanied by growing efforts to censor their self-expression on the internet.

Very little academic research about "conspiracy theories" considers the content, or makes more than a token reference to the fact that they are sometimes proven correct. A rare except to this a 2017 paper which, although concluding that "it is possible... that conspiracy belief is a self-defeating form of motivated social cognition", does note in passing that

“history has repeatedly shown that corporate and political elites do conspire against public interests. Conspiracy theories play an important role in bringing their misdeeds into the light.”
Karen M. Douglas,  Robbie M. Sutton,  Aleksandra Cichocka (June 2017)  The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories [10]


Like the theorizing about "Drapetomania", an invented disease from middle of the 19th century,[17][18][19] research into conspiracy mindset goes on to show that worldview can overrule critical thinking and analysis of otherwise capable individuals.



An example

Page nameDescription
COMPACT - Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories


Related Quotation

"Conspiracy mindset"““Conspiracy belief”, “conspiracy thinking”, “conspiracy mindset”, “conspiracy predispositions”, “conspiracist ideation”, “conspiracy ideology”, “conspiracy mentality” and “conspiracy worldview” — most of these apparently serving no distinct purpose other than an attempt at elegant variation — are all terms based upon the psychologists' own delusional beliefs. For some reason, all those researching the psychology of those they have labelled conspiracy theorist imagine, without reason, that the so-named “conspiracists” don’t have any evidence to back up their arguments.”Iain Davis1 August 2022
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  1. https://twitter.com/abbieasr/status/1462953203067240450
  2. Samenow, S. E. (2014), Inside the criminal mind, Broadway Books. avail. online as audiobook.
  3. Hare, R. D.,Babiak, P. (2006). Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. New York: Regan Books. https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/127744-snakes-in-suits-when-psychopaths-go-to-work
  4. Babiak, P., Neumann, C. S., & Hare, R. D. (2010). Corporate psychopathy: Talking the walk. Behavioral sciences & the law, 28(2), 174-193.
  5. Mathieu, C., Neumann, C. S., Hare, R. D., & Babiak, P. (2014). A dark side of leadership: Corporate psychopathy and its influence on employee well-being and job satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 59, 83-88.
  6. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2530
  7. https://educationnewscanada.com/article/education/region/quebec/26/829640/universite-de-sherbrookeapril-23-2020-covid-19-stress-and-anxiety-very-present-in-quebec-and-canada-aggravated-by-misinformation.html
  8. Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2530
  9. Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2530 (emphasis added)
  10. a b Current Directions in Psychological Science https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317401748_The_Psychology_of_Conspiracy_Theories
  11. Document:Countering_Criticism_of_the_Warren_Report
  12. a b Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2265
  13. Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2265
  14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2331
  15. https://www.vorwaerts.de/artikel/sozialpsychologin-pia-lamberty-verschwoerungstheorien-wurden-lange-belaechelt saved at Archive.org saved at Archive.is
  16. https://www.spektrum.de/magazin/verschwoerungstheorien-das-establishment-unter-generalverdacht/1416175 saved at Archive.org saved at Archive.is
  17. http://allthatsinteresting.com/drapetomania saved at Archive.org
  18. https://web.archive.org/web/20151106050233/http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/enslavement/text8/runawayswpa.pdf
  19. http://archive.today/2020.08.02-172658/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drapetomania