Lacking control drives false conclusions, conspiracy theories and superstitions

Lacking control drives false conclusions, conspiracy theories and superstitions


"Control - you must learn control!" These wise words were uttered by no less a sage than Yoda, and while he was talking about telekinetically hoisting spacecraft, having control has another important benefit. It protects a person from spotting false patterns that aren't there, from believing in conspiracies and from developing superstitions.


Control and security are vital parts of our psychological well-being and it goes without saying that losing them can feel depressing or scary. As such, people have strategies for trying to regain a sense control even if it's a tenuous one. Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky from the University of Texas have found that one such strategy is to identify coherent and meaningful relationships between things we observe.


These patterns can help us to make sense of past events and predict future ones, affording us a degree of control over our fates, albeit an indirect one. We can't change the weather, for example, but if we can tell when it's going to rain, we can be prepared. At the more extreme end, conspiracy theories can help the bewildered to make sense of otherwise unconnected events. And explaining random events by invoking superstitions or higher beings can help to bring reality's many possibilities within one's understanding, if not under one's heel.


Read the rest on Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Tags: bias, cognition, conspiracy theories, control, mind, science, superstitions

Views: 35

Replies to This Discussion

So would those of us with an inner locus of control would be more likely not to superstitious?
Prolly.
They overlook one very major other factor - scapegoating. The overwhelming majority of conspiracy theorists are deranged, crypto-fascist losers. Life is screwing them and they need to be able to blame someone - jews, big/world government, freemasons, illuminati, the Rothschilds/banks/Wall Street, liberals etc. etc. But other than that I agree. Small minds hate complexity, simple (if absurd) answers are the antidote.
Good point, Felch.
Well, no part of the political spectrum is immune to the effect. If you lack any meaningful control over your circumstances, you will attempt to feel superior by connecting dots that don't connect or by blaming others for your woes. The loony left (and a lot of the loony right) blames Bush for something that he was obviously far too incompetent to actually do. The loony right blames Obama for things that he couldn't possibly do and obviously isn't interested in doing (like turning the US into a communist utopia).
You know Jason, I always point out the incompetence thing, and it never seems to hit.

Bush was an idiot and also one of the best Machiavellian manipulators ever (if he is just acting like an idiot he should get an oscar), or at least his government and cronies who were in power with him were.

I think it strikes at the heart to me with most conspiracies, the conspiracy itself undercuts almost everything because it always comes back to people in power, utilizing a vast network or cronies in keeping the real facts away and hidden from the public so they can silently manipulate the populace at large.

This is the USA government that cannot even keep, pentagon documents from leaking into the wilds of the internet on a consistent basis.

Secrets are not as well shielded as they used to be, someone somewhere will eventually leak it, or let it be leaked by accident.
Spot on, felch!

Blaming someone else is not unlike the rejection of responsibility entailed by religion - do anything but work it out for yourself and be accountable for your own actions...
To mount my hobby-horse of the moment: To not be in control means that one is not the agent that makes something happen. But, things happen. Therefore, there must be something [someone] making it happen. We'll blame those evil agents for this mess.

As I've spouted elsewhere, agency is a useful lizard brain function that helped us [and many other critters] survive to the point we're at. But experience and teaching can help us from being locked into those primitive responses to the exclusion of more useful tools we now have.

Religions and conspiracy theories have a belief that (motivated) agency extends back at least one step further than it is reasonable to conclude. And they assume that all levels of agency are competent.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to point out all the logical, epistemological, and sociological flaws with that kind of "reasoning."
As I've spouted elsewhere, agency is a useful lizard brain function that helped us [and many other critters] survive to the point we're at. But experience and teaching can help us from being locked into those primitive responses to the exclusion of more useful tools we now have.

Good observation, Glenn. Undestanding the agency of an action, or cause and effect, is important to survival and problem-solving skills.
It's important if there's an agent. What is often missed is that "agency" does not apply to some situations.
Yes, of course. I actually did mean to say that. The problem is with people seeing an agent that is not there, or ignoring the one that is (like Bush tax cuts which did not stimulate the economy).

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