Jacobs rants on about people who believe in certain conspiracies “…were imparting genuinely interesting information — about themselves. New research suggests belief in such theories may reveal a Machiavellian mindset”.
“At least among some samples and for some conspiracy theories, the perception that ‘they did it’ is fueled by the perception that ‘I would do it,’” University of Kent psychologists Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton write in the British Journal of Social Psychology.
“These studies suggest that people who have more lax personal morality may endorse conspiracy theories to a greater extent because they are, on average, more willing to participate in the conspiracies themselves. The reasons people persist in believing conspiracy theories — even when there is overwhelming evidence debunking them — have long been debated by psychologists. One credible theory contends convincing ourselves of conspiracies allows us to avoid acknowledging the terrifying arbitrariness of life. In a strange way, some conspiracy theories offer us accounts of events that allow us to retain a sense of safety and predictability,” British psychologist Patrick Leman noted in New Scientist in 2007. ‘Instability makes most of us uncomfortable.’ Douglas and Sutton aren’t denying that fear avoidance plays a role, but they’re pointing to a different (perhaps complementary) phenomenon. In some cases, they argue, belief in conspiracies is a matter of psychological projection — that is, the tendency to apply one’s own attitude to others.”
Jacobs quotes one study in which 189 British undergraduates completed the MACH-IV questionnaire to measure their level of Machiavellianism (Machiavellianism as it turns out, is the tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain). This involves expressing one’s level of agreement with a series of statements such as “The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear.” Duh! Tell us something we haven already known all along!