Sunday 20 November 2016

Are Conspiracy Theorists Narcissists?

An article has come to my attention that claims conspiracy theorists are likely to be narcissists. Narcissism is a personality trait that includes excessive vanity, a grandiose opinion of one's own qualities and abilities; and sometimes these cover up internal low self-esteem. The word originates from Greek mythology, a story about a man who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. This new idea about conspiracy theorists comes from a study carried out by psychologists at the University of Kent. They conducted an online correspondence with a number of people asking about their belief in popular conspiracy theories, for instance: Were the moon landings faked? Do governments carry out false flag terrorism on their own soil? etc. Alongside this they were given a questionnaire that gauged their narcissistic personality traits. There was a distinct correlation between those who scored high and those who were open to conspiracy theoretical ideas. The lead author of the report, Dr Aleksandra Cichocka said: "Narcissists think that they are better than other people. At the same time, they are convinced that others are constantly trying to undermine them. This fosters paranoia and a conviction that others might conspire against them... We find that people high in narcissism are more likely to believe in various conspiracy theories. This does not mean that all narcissists believe in all conspiracies. It also does not mean that everyone who believes in some conspiracy theories is necessarily a narcissist." Interestingly, despite the statement from the article's author: "In the internet age conspiracy theories can incubate in quiet corners of the web, but it may be psychological predispositions of believers which keep them alive, rather than cold hard facts." There is almost no discussion of any factual issue. They do refer to Dr David Grimes' explanation, as have I, see here at about 46 minutes in: It's only when you get down to the comments section that people start asking the obvious question: What if some conspiracy theories are real? These days in the media, the comments are always far more interesting than the newspaper articles. Source: I hope this study is mistaken because narcissists are usually very unpleasant people. Their inflated ego tends to regard others as inferior and objects of contempt; either that or the hidden low-self-esteem makes them feel others as threatening and therefore to be treated with hostility. I decided to test myself using this online survey: I scored 14, which is dead on the median average. According to this test I am not a narcissist. I'm sure readers will agree that my level of conspiracy theory belief does not need additional testing.

One name comes to mind that is very notable by its absence from the report: Prof. Karen Douglas. She is a top research psychologist, also from the University of Kent; and she has conducted a thorough analysis of conspiracy theorists and what makes us tick. She says: "My primary research focus is on beliefs in conspiracy theories. Why are conspiracy theories so popular? Who believes them? Why do people believe them? What are some of the consequences of conspiracy theories and can such theories be harmful?" See: She has published a paper entitled Organizational conspiracy theories and work-related outcomes; and I know only too well what those outcomes can be, see: She could use me as a guinea pig. I saw her give a live lecture at the British Humanist Association's conspiracy theory conference in 2011 where she made it clear that her focus was not on whether conspiracy theories are factually true or false, only why people believe them. I responded by suggesting she carries out a similar study on skeptics, but my sarcasm went right over her head, see: Nevertheless I have attempted to do one myself, see background links below. The reason Prof. Douglas' name can't be found on that paper might be related to another report she wrote in 2013 with a colleague Michael J Wood indicating that conspiracy theorists are "more sane" than their detractors. This is an extraordinary statement for somebody in her position to make. Does this indicate that she is changing her mind? See: Next weekend I will be speaking at a conference alongside Prof. Douglas and I hope I get the chance to ask her for more information on this matter, see:

No comments: