Brotherton explains the psychology behind why people believe conspiracy theories.
I’ve always been exasperated with conspiracy theories. I never understood why people allowed themselves to be duped into believing wild speculations. But then I found out, of all the horrors, I’m one of those people!
Suspicious Minds taught me about the tricks our minds play on us, and I realized that even though I don’t believe conspiracy theories, my mind can still be tricked. It’s happening to all of us all the time.
Our brains love to make order out of chaos, find the culprit responsible for calamities (even if no one is responsible), simplify complex and nuanced reality into black and white fantasy, and imagine danger lurking behind every corner (because it’s trying to keep us alive). Our brain sees illusions much like our eyes do.
I’ve always loved brain science. I’m fascinated to discover what’s going on inside there, what makes us think, and what makes us who we are. Suspicious Minds met my expectations.
Brotherton helps readers understand the complicated subjects with clear explanations and fun examples. The book is well organized; it defines conspiracy theories, presents the history of them, and shows evidence of how, why, and when they actually cause harm. For example, one could argue that World War I was caused by a few individuals who believed conspiracy theories. After that, the book delves into psychology.
For the most part, the author is fair to both sides of the conspiracy theory debate, though I didn’t always agree with him, like when he hints that certain beliefs are conspiracy theories when they aren’t, according to his own definition of conspiracy theories.
Brotherton sets out not to prove or disprove individual theories, but to examine the brain science behind this way of thinking, and in that, he succeeds.
I recommend this to:
- Psychology geeks.
• Sometimes, it would seem, buying into a conspiracy is the cognitive equivalent of seeing meaning in randomness.
• The brain, like its fellow organs, is primarily in the business of keeping us alive, and, also like its less mysterious colleagues, the brain doesn’t need much input from us to get the job done.
• The conpiracist worldview paints the world in black and white—a cartoonish portrait of valiant conspiracy theorists battling monolithic conspiracies. But reality is shades of gray. By making scapegoats out of imagined conspirators, conspiracy theories distract attention from real and potentially rectifiable issues. You can’t win when you’re fighting a conspiracy that doesn’t exist.
• Whether they turn out to be true or not, conspiracy theories, deep down, are unanswered questions.
What are your favorite books on psychology?