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Conspiracy Theorists, in my opinion, are people I don't like except for some exceptions. However, this question will not be answered with my irrelevant opinions on said people..

Now, here is the question:

  • Why do conspiracy theorists become conspiracy theorists?
  • Why do they get the ideas that they do?
  • Are they looking for attention?
  • What are the mechanics behind their minds/thought process?

Some conspiracies:

  • "Tupac is still alive, he will come back in year 20(12,13,14)"
  • "The New World Order is going to take over the world."

Do these people warp things like the Illuminati into a conspiracy? What is behind the minds of these people? Is there any prevalence of mental (conditions, disease) among them? Is there any different type of parenting or environment they are raised in?

All of these questions don't need to be answered, but those are the questions running through my mind.

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3  
Tupac is still alive. –  Chuck Sherrington Jul 23 '13 at 21:01
2  
and so is Elvis, I saw them down at the local 7-Eleven... –  user3554 Jul 23 '13 at 21:10
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Please define "conspiracy theory". The existence of gulags was not generally known to the Soviet populace. Single individuals claiming their existence had a status similar to people believing that Tupac is still alive in the USA today. So what makes one a "conspiracy theory", and not the other? What if Tupac, Elvis, or Hitler actually were still alive, or the US actually hadn't landed on the moon, etc.? How does a conspiracy theory differ from a religion? etc. Your question seems straightforward, but in fact there is a huge prejudice (you know the truth!) behind it. –  what Jul 24 '13 at 12:43
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Interesting question, I am glad that you stated that it is not going to be opinion-based (grounds for closure), as there is some research being done in this field.

A couple papers and details of their research for you:

"Social Psychological Origins of Conspiracy Theories: The Case of the Jewish Conspiracy Theory in Malaysia" (Swami, 2012) states that in some cases, such as the case study presented in the title of this article, it is a 'state-based' conspiracy theory, where:

in which state-directed conspiracism as a means of dealing with perceived external and internal threats

(emphasis mine).

This could also be extended to why individuals take on the conspiracy theories themselves.

This, in a way relates to the next article:

"The Sarrazin effect: the presence of absurd statements in conspiracy theories makes canonical information less plausible" (Raab et al. 2013), which is best summed up in one of their concluding paragraphs:

It is these dynamics of reception, alteration and propagation that account for the many-faceted phenomenon we call conspiracy theory. The cognitive effort, i.e., considering information in the eventuality space, might be rewarding and satisfying in itself; just like an aesthetic experience or a mental exercise (cf. Muth & Carbon, 2013). Unlike a crossword puzzle, however, reception and propagation of a conspiracy theory allow for intercommunion. Yet, as many participants reported afterwards, constructing a story can ultimately be fun.

Essentially, it is almost like the first example, where the state propagates a conspiracy theory to try to comprehend and cope with perceived threats, the same can apply to the individual.

I hope this helps.

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This is the best answer ever. It answers everything! –  CoonKitteh Jul 24 '13 at 17:30
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In my opinion the main reason of conspiracy theory is lack of information. As in rumors. In this wikipedia page you can find a lot of research on rumors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumor. When people dont have enough information they tend to confabulate because of Gestalt princioles.

But also there is quality of conspiracy theory and amount of truth, not all conspiraci theories are bogus.

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If you are looking for an insight into the mind of a conspiracy theorist, there was a very long "suicide note" printed by some guy who successfully committed suicide.Wikipedia says this is the longest note, but it does not seem like the right one I cannot find it now, but remember that it was about 1000 pages long.

naturally, I cannot read a 1000 pages, so I wrote a perl script that pulled the most used words within that note. Most of these were very negative, but what struck me as odd is that many world war 2 related terms were up there, like nazis, Jews, etc. I got a feeling that his mind was going in circles around those topics and could not escape.

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