Wanted—Dead and Alive
Conspiracy theorists are likely to embrace contradictory explanations of the same event, a study finds.
Nearly 140 British undergraduates were asked how much they agreed (on a seven-point scale) with dubious theories: the moon landing was faked, the true cause of 9/11 was covered up, etc. Several contradictory explanations of Princess Diana's death were included.
As expected, people who believed in one plot tended to believe in others on unrelated subjects. In addition, the more that the subjects believed Diana faked her own death (for privacy's sake), the more likely they were also to believe that she was murdered.
In a related experiment, the more students believed that Osama bin Laden was dead before the U.S. raid in Pakistan, the more they believed that he was still in hiding, or a U.S. captive.
Conspiracy theorists' beliefs about the untrustworthiness of official sources, the authors said, are strong enough to override logical problems."Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories," Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton, Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming)