“In times of high anxiety, uncertainty, and existential fears, people tend to embrace any – even false – promises of social and epistemic security,” our Research Affiliate Peter Kreko writes in his chapter in The Psychology of Insecurity.
“The advantage of conspiracy theories in crises in general, and during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, was that they provided – scary but robust deductive theories – causal explanations on who and why created, let free and controlled the spread of the coronavirus. This way, conspiracy theories can help in the symbolic coping with new threats,” he argues, adding that “at the same time, conspiracy theories as a form of collectively motivated cognition are emerging on the basis of group identities, and these “tribal myths”, bound to group membership, can be psychologically reassuring when survival is at stake.”
“But the price of this psychological comfort can be high: many studies (including our empirical research) have found that conspiracy theories can undermine rational individual responses to the pandemic. Beliefs in malevolent and secret plots by scientists, politicians, and background powers are undermining people’s willingness to vaccinate themselves – putting their lives at much greater risk,” he continues.
The book, edited by Joseph P. Forgas, William D. Crano, Klaus Fiedler, features contributions by leading international researchers exploring the social psychology of insecurity and how existential, metaphysical and social uncertainty influence human behavior.
Learn more about the volume here.