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Deconstructing the Conspiratorial Mind: the Computational Logic Behind Conspiracy Theories

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2022). Deconstructing the Conspiratorial Mind: the Computational Logic Behind Conspiracy Theories. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, doi: 10.1007/s13164-022-00657-7


In the social sciences, research on conspiracy theories is accumulating fast. To contribute to this research, here I introduce a computational model about the psychological processes underlying support for conspiracy theories. The proposal is that endorsement of these theories depends on three factors: prior beliefs, novel evidence, and expected consequences. Thanks to the latter, a conspiracy hypothesis might be selected because it is the costliest to reject even if it is not the best supported by evidence and by prior beliefs (i.e., even if it is not the most accurate). In this way, the model implies a key role for motivated reasoning. By examining the social conditions that favour the success of conspiracy theories, the paper embeds the model, whose focus is primarily psychological, within the broader social context, and applies this analysis to probe the role of conspiracy theories within contemporary Western societies. Altogether, the paper argues that a computational outlook can contribute to elucidate the socio-psychological dynamics underlying the attractiveness of conspiracy theories.

Publication Type: Article
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Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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