Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University, explains why exposure to popular conspiracy theories can make you less “pro-social” (whatever that means) at Psychology Today:
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Is the government covering up evidence of alien existence? Are powerful elites plotting a New World Order? Is global warming a hoax? Are lizard people taking over the planet? And are vaccines really the government’s attempt at mass mind-control?
There seems to be something inexplicably compelling about the nature of conspiracy theories; over 50% of Americans now believe in at least one conspiracy theory. You might think that even although substantial minorities of people endorse these type of “eccentric” beliefs, conspiracy ideation mostly seems harmless fun, food for those who are palpably out of touch with reality.
Think again! In a new study, I find that mere exposure to a popular conspiracy theory can make you less pro-social and less likely to accept established scientific principles.