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Profs and Pints DC presents: “The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories,” with Brian A. Sharpless, licensed clinical psychologist, visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and editor of Unusual Psychological Disorders.
What is a conspiracy theory? Are people who believe in conspiracies fundamentally different from those who do not? Are there any ways to protect yourself from buying into false theories? How often do conspiracy theories actually turn out to be true?
These are just a few of the fascinating questions that will be tackled by Brian Sharpless, a favorite of Profs and Pints fans. He will discuss conspiratorial thinking throughout history, define what “conspiracy theory” means to psychologists and psychiatrists, and summarize what the field knows about the people who buy into such beliefs.
You may be surprised to learn that there are ways to predict who will believe in conspiracy theories, with some very common “cognitive biases” leaving people more accepting of them. Conspiracy theories also can also provide short-term psychological benefits to the believer. Furthermore, a number of psychological traits and disorders – both common and rare – have been associated with conspiratorial thinking.
Perhaps most surprising, that there are relatively few big differences between those who are predisposed to believe in conspiracy theories and those who aren’t. It’s small differences that sometimes have a huge impact in worldview.
The good news is that there are ways to evaluate – and even “inoculate” yourself against – conspiracy theories, and Dr. Sharpless will offer you practical tips on this front. You may walk out with a different perspective on what you read in the news and on the internet, with new knowledge that may help you maintain a more realistic and accurate worldview. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: An Airbus A340 jet emits contrails, the subject of conspiracy beliefs. (Photo by Adrian Pingstone / Wikimedia.)