Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Recent scholarship has claimed to show that conspiracy theorists are prone to simultaneously believe mutually contradictory conspiracy theories, as well as believe entirely made up conspiracy theories. The authors of those studies suggest that this supports the notion that conspiracy theories operate within “monological belief systems”, in which conspiracy theorists find support for conspiratorial beliefs in other conspiratorial beliefs, or in related generalizations, rather than in evidence directly relevant to the conspiracy in question. In this article, I argue that all of that is either wrong or at least misleading.

Focusing primarily on three articles (Wood et al. 2012, Swami et al. 2011, and Goertzel 1994), but addressing others as well, I argue that there is a trend in the social science literature on conspiracy theories that is significantly misleading (presumably due to bias against conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists). Specifically, I show the following: (1) The often cited claim that conspiracy theorists tend to simultaneously believe contradictory conspiracy theories (based on Wood et al. 2012) is unfounded. (2) A study that purports to show that conspiracy theorists are more prone than others to believe entirely fictitious conspiracy theories (Swami et al. 2011) is one-sided and misleading. In addition, the authors make an error about belief that is analogous to the one made by Wood et al.


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