What a Conspiracy Theorist Believes

The New Yorker:

On a four-point scale, from one (strongly disagree) to four (strongly agree), please rate the following statements: “The Apollo moon landings never happened and were staged in a Hollywood film studio”; ”Princess Diana’s death was not an accident but rather an organized assassination by members of the British Royal Family who disliked her”; “The Coca-Cola Company intentionally changed to an inferior formula with the intent of driving up demand for their classic product, later reintroducing it for their financial gain”; and “Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from human activities cause climate change.”

Questions like those formed the core of one of the most intriguing studies I have seen in a long time, a brand-new study, just published in Psychological Science, that investigated the dynamics of science doubters. The Australian psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and two collaborators surveyed over a thousand visitors to online climate blogs (all relatively positive toward science), and asked them questions about free-market ideology and their views on climate science. The investigators also probed for their “conspiracist ideation” by asking questions like the ones above about faked Apollo moon landings and the assassination of Princess Diana. Some subjects were eliminated because they appear to have lied about their age (it is doubtful that anyone under five completed the survey, for instance), and as a precaution, to prevent ballot-box stuffing, the experimenters also eliminated answers where more than one response came a single I.P. address.

Read the whole story: The New Yorker

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