Psychology Theory: Why People Are Unwilling to Understand “Conspiracy Theories”

While watching Jordan Peterson’s lectures, in particular, 2017 Maps of Meaning 5: Story and Meta Story (Part 1) an idea popped into my head. Peterson was talking about how the brain understands the world, and how humans simplify ideas so the brain can process it. Showing the classic video of people throwing a ball and given the objective of counting how many times they pass the ball. If you have seen the video, you likely missed the gorilla going through the middle of the group as you count. Showcasing that though our minds are amazing and able to do certain things instantly, there are still many limitations to its ability. He then goes on to explain how the brain understands the world and the capabilities it has. Showing that it can only understand a certain amount and when looking at something requiring vast knowledge, the mind will simplify it so you can understand the world, even if not entirely accurate.

The theory I came up with was — The human mind is unable to comprehend the full picture at all times and instead simplifies understandings; therefore, any time a person tries to talk about a “conspiracy theory”, the reason that people don’t believe it, have cognitive dissonance, or just don’t understand is because they only understand their simplifications.

This means that whenever someone who has spent time studying an issue and talks to somebody who is ignorant of it, they will only have their simple understandings. Ending up in them experiencing confusion or cognitive dissonance, especially if it goes against what they know or think they know.

The reason this applies to conspiracies, is that they are usually the full picture. Those who only understand what the news says, cannot understand what a “conspiracy theorist” is talking about (unless they will be open and listen regardless of their biases).