My book, Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, is out now! You can buy it now from all the usual places, in hardback and for Kindle and other e-readers. (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Barnes & Noble / Waterstones)
Here’s what the book is all about…
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. The plots of countless Hollywood blockbusters, bestselling books, and beloved TV shows revolve around conspiratorial shenanigans, and surprising numbers of people believe that the kinds of vast, insidious conspiracies that Mulder and Scully routinely unearthed on The X-Files are happening right now in the real world. Yet conspiracy theories are not a recent invention, and they are not always a harmless curiosity.
In SUSPICIOUS MINDS: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories (Bloomsbury / November 17, 2015 / $27, hardcover), Rob Brotherton, a research psychologist and leading expert on the psychology of conspiracy theory, explores the history and consequences of conspiracism, and offers insights into why so many of us are drawn to implausible, unproven and unprovable conspiracy theories. They resonate with some of our brain’s built-in quirks and foibles, and tap into some of our deepest desires, fears, and assumptions about the world. But conspiracy theories are not unique in eliciting our brain’s biases. From our love of heroic underdogs to our tendency to see hidden hands behind ambiguous events, the same mental quirks that make conspiracy theories appealing are constantly shaping how we think about the world. Most of the time our biases simply slip by unnoticed.
The fascinating psychology of conspiracy theories tells us a lot about how our minds are wired and, indeed, why we believe anything at all. Conspiracy theories are not some psychological aberration—they’re a predictable product of how brains work. And, of course, just because your brain’s biased doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. Sometimes conspiracies are real. Sometimes, paranoia is prudent.
Conspiracy theorists aren’t just a few kooks lurking on the paranoid fringes of society with bizarre ideas about shape-shifting reptiles secretly running society. According to Brotherton, we’re all conspiracy theorists—some of us just hide it better than others.
And here’s what people are saying about it…
“Sophisticated and absorbing…This is a first-class book. It melds science, history and popular culture cleverly and with purpose.” –James McConnachie (author of The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories), Sunday Times
“…presents a textured and often surprising look into the fascinating world of conspiracy theories. A world so often described as dark and shady is shown to be much closer to home than we could have first imagined.”–Ella Rhodes, The Psychologist
“[W]hen we’re faced with events we cannot understand, it’s natural for our brains to create a narrative–even if it means ‘casting the world in terms of “us versus”‘ to potentially dangerous ends, as Brotherton puts it. ‘There are more conspiracy theorists out there than you might expect,’ he writes. ‘Chances are you know some. Chances are you are one.’” –TIME Magazine
“[Brotherton] casts doubt on the assumption that far-fetched beliefs are reserved for the simple-minded or the exceedingly paranoid…Although we like to think our judgments are based on evidence, Brotherton reveals that a host of psychological factors come into play whenever we choose what to believe.” –Scientific American
“Rob Brotherton, an academic psychologist, gives a greatest-hits tour of conspiracy theories past and present, all the while seeking to explain their appeal. Rather than some unhinged mode of being, he argues, conspiracy thinking represents a heightening of cognitive tendencies shared by almost everyone. –Pacific Standard
“The world of conspiracy theory is a minefield of manic personalities, but Brotherton uses a measured scientific tone to explain our more creative anxieties. His writing style is inviting and even cheeky, and the book is a page-turner. A thoughtful, general analysis of conspiracy theories arguing that belief in secret plots is neither new nor unusual but a time-tested part of the human experience.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Clearly written and with liberal use of humor and numerous examples from scholarly research, this title provides a valuable look at why conspiracy theories abound and why we should continually assess our thinking.” –Library Journal, starred review
“Over the course of this all-too-short book, Brotherton illustrates how incomplete, contradictory, coincidental, and incongruent information can allow people to see conspiracies and connections where there are none, due in part to the theories’ plausibility and humans’ innate desire for order, as well as a given individual’s understanding of how the world works. Put simply, people want to believe. Brotherton maintains an educational approach to the material, leading readers through the logic behind each concept as he explores subjects as diverse as the Illuminati, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (“not a very good fake”), the Kennedy assassination, and birthers. While Brotherton might not convince all believers to remove their tinfoil hats (a concept whose origin he explains), it’s sure to make readers question their worldview.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review