Why do we believe in strange conspiracy theories

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Why do we believe in strange conspiracy theories

We humans are strange creatures: even if logic points us in one direction, we confidently stomp in the opposite. We consider ourselves terribly rational, organized, but when it comes to intuition, it turns out that we have a lot of “blind spots”. When we meet with something unfamiliar, disordered, unstructured, we immediately begin to look around in search of patterns and explanations that will help us put things in order.

Lisa can’t figure out Instagram’s algorithm in any way: why do some publications go well and the system selects them to show to unfamiliar users, while others seemingly exactly the same go unnoticed? It is completely incomprehensible – and most importantly, to guess which photograph will “shoot” is also impossible.

She tried everything: changed the subject of photos, filters, description, hashtags, improved their quality, but to no avail. Attempts to determine what affects the success of publications brought it to a white heat. No rational criteria related to the operation of the application seemed to play a role. But suddenly a connection with external factors was revealed.

For example, it turned out that when Lisa had dirty hair, her photos gained more “likes”. Moreover, it does not matter what is depicted on them. It sounds crazy, but the girl even began to track such coincidences and finally made sure that the pattern is there.

Everything would be fine, but Lisa is quite an adult, adequate and serious person. She herself understands that there can be no relationship: well, how can a dirty head affect the Instagram rendering algorithm ?! However, the “facts” are damn convincing. Of course, she does not voice her theory to anyone, but deep down she is sure that she has cracked the system.

And why? Because we need patterns and explanations. This has been the case since ancient times: even when we lived in caves, information was a real treasure. One wrong step, one wrong move – and we are finished. We were saved only by the ability to speculate. So, we have learned to track patterns and to connect things that are not directly related.

Imagine: you came to a watering place, and then the bird, which was flooded nearby, suddenly falls silent. There can be several explanations for this: flew away, tired, started pecking grains. But here you recall that this happened before, when …

And now you are already rushing off that there is urine, because the last time there was a hungry predator nearby. Remembering and guessing may have saved your life. As well as the mass of other derived patterns: what fruits can be eaten and which can not, with whom it is better to communicate with the tribe, and with whom it is not worth it. All this increased our chances of survival. And it was better to make a mistake and flee from a nonexistent predator than to ignore the alarm signal and become someone else’s dinner.

We must try to be condescending to the attempts of the brain to organize everything into simple systems.

Of course, today we are practically not threatened to be eaten by someone whose teeth are sharper than ours, but the instinct remains. And we rely on him in trying not to drown in the flows of information. And there really are many, too many. Some information is true, some false, and most importantly – having unlimited access to it, we simply do not have time to process it. Do not have time, but try.

“Often we really cannot understand and explain to ourselves what is happening around us,” agrees clinical psychologist Julia Zakharova. – It is difficult for us to control the world around and manage it. This lack of control is unpleasant and alarming. But when we find what is happening even the most irrational explanations, we worry less. It seems to us, even for a short while, that the world is simple, understandable and can be controlled.

Lisa thinks that an unwashed head somehow helps to collect more likes. Anxiety is reduced, irrational behavior (walking with unwashed head) is fixed. In the short term, this behavior helps the girl reduce anxiety, but in the long term, she will not lead to the desired result – for example, to increase the number of followers or “likes” – after all, Lisa does not spend effort on learning Instagram algorithms or improving content. And, yes, of course, this is more difficult than just not washing your hair.

In order not to try to “control the Universe without attracting the attention of orderlies”, it is necessary to develop real knowledge, skills. We must try to be condescending to the attempts of the brain to arrange everything into simple and understandable systems. He is so arranged, this is his work. ”

Something is happening, but we cannot understand why. And instead of just accepting this fact, we are stubbornly looking for an explanation. Sometimes this leads to startling scientific discoveries, but more often it turns out to be confusing.

What we actually control is just a small sandy shore, the edge of a sea of ​​uncertainty

If it seems to us that the two variables are interconnected, we begin to trace the relationship, even if it actually does not exist, look for convincing “evidence” and forget the facts that contradict our new theory. That is how we begin to believe, for example, in conspiracy theories. Looking around, we see the world as it is. We see the mess and chaos, and it scares us. We are afraid of everything that we cannot understand.

It is difficult to believe in chaos – it is much easier to decide that someone is behind all this, that some kind of “invisible hand” is in control. And deciding to find a lot of evidence.

Take, for example, supporters of the theory of a flat earth. It would seem that the evidence that the Earth is round is a breakthrough, but this does not prevent such people from inventing ridiculous explanations for everything that they do not understand. Having once believed in their theory, they with manic persistence dismiss any arguments.

Yes, we are strange. We are not ready to part with the remnants of the past in our heads. We live in the modern world, but perceive it with our “monkey” brain. And we never stop there. We are not ready to remain ignorant and therefore continue to search for the causes of what is happening. Sometimes these “excavations” lead to something useful and useful, and sometimes they make it very easy to manage. We believe the lies and tales that others tell us in their own interests.

It is important for us to know that everything does not happen by itself, that everything has a reason – and get to the bottom of which one.

“That is why it is so important to develop tolerance for uncertainty,” advises Yulia Zakharova. – Sometimes we may not understand something – and never understand. And sometimes we do everything right, but we don’t get the desired result. What we actually control is just a small sandy shore, the edge of a sea of ​​uncertainty. It is especially difficult to survive in the field of human relationships. Difficult, but necessary. ”

Julia Zakharova

About the expert

Julia Zakharova – Clinical psychologist, member of the Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists and the Society of Cognitive Psychotherapists and Consultants. More on her website.

Prepared by: Pauline Franke
Photo Source: Getty images

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