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Conspiracy theories - Statistics & Facts

Conspiracy theories are explanations of certain events or situations through theories based on data not officially recognized and generally induced by influential and powerful groups. Worldwide, there is an incredible amount of conspiracy theories. They cover everything from paranormal theories to conspiracies to explain wars, diseases, or scientific discoveries. However, what they all have in common is the belief that someone is hiding very relevant information from most people, mostly for negative and dangerous purposes. Psychologists have several explanations for this behavior. For instance, people are drawn towards such theories when they feel unsafe, or when they want to feel more powerful in a situation. Another motive that drives people is the need to feel good about themselves, such as by having access to information to which other people do not.

The (conspiracy) theory of everything

Some beliefs are more political, such as the alleged use of chemtrails to control the population or the belief that 9/11 was an inside job. The latter is, in fact, believed by around 23 percent of Americans. Other theories, instead, focus on debunking widely accepted science, such as climate change or the shape of the earth. In the United State, for instance, one in five Americans believe that climate change is a hoax. Worldwide, the belief in climate change is the highest in South Korea, Italy, and India, while it is the lowest in Japan and in the United States. Despite the understanding of the Earth as flat or as a disk is long since disproven, in modern times, this misconception exists as a conspiracy theory. The assumption that the earth is flat is, for instance, believed by some seven percent of Brazilians.

The impact of fake news

Misinformation plays a determinant role in the spread of conspiracy theories. When people cannot distinguish opinions from facts, or a reliable from an untrustworthy source, they will likely take for granted that what they read or hear is truthful. Fake news spreads fast with the wide reach of social media. In fact, a study reveals that social media is used as a source of news worldwide, and in some countries by over 70 percent of internet users. However, fake news can be found, according to a recent study, in television and the print press as well. Some ways people are able to tell if information they are reading online is trustworthy is by reading how other media organizations have reported the story or checking the original source of information.

The spread of conspiracy virus

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have started to circulate worldwide. In France, the most conveyed conspiracy theories supported by anti-mask people is the conviction that 5G waves are responsible for the pandemic. According to Italian respondents, social media is mostly responsible for spreading false or inaccurate information regarding the coronavirus. However, not only is the web responsible for the spread of fake or distorted news on the coronavirus. In Brazil, for example, President Bolsonaro has made a remarkable number of incorrect statements on COVID-19. When misinformation comes from so many different sources, people will find it more and more difficult to tell what is right and what is false.


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