Intention Seekers: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories About MS804


I wrote a post over at Psychology Today on the psychology behind conspiracy theories about airline disasters like the disappearance of MH370, and more recently, MS804. Part of the appeal, according to a handful of recent studies, may be how conspiracy theories resonate with our brain’s intentionality bias.

When ambiguous events happen, we automatically assume that they were intended, rather than accidental. The bias is easy to spot in kids. When young children see somebody sneeze of fall over, they think that the person must have meant to sneeze or fall over. As we grow older, of course, we realize that people don’t always intend to do everything they do, and we can override our automatic judgment of intent. But the bias stays with us. One study found that having people drink a few shots of alcohol made them more likely to interpret ambiguous events as intentional—which might explain why so many fights start in bars when somebody interprets an innocent comment as an aggressive affront.

To read more about how this helps us understand conspiracy theories, click over to Psychology Today.

About Rob Brotherton

Rob is a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and assistant editor of The Skeptic []. Follow Rob on Twitter: @rob_brotherton
This entry was posted in Biases & heuristics, Intentionality bias, World events and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Intention Seekers: The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories About MS804

  1. ellab01 says:

    I think this is super interesting and enjoyed reading your opinions on conspiracy theories, especially as it may be applicable to the recent disappearance of the EgyptAir plane. I’m new here and will be writing blog posts about psychology too, do you think you could show me some support and follow back?

  2. Ray says:

    There is no conspiracy on this tragedy as yet more like speculation, well I haven’t heard anything so I think it’s a terrible accident.

  3. Narad says:

    Not many comments here anymore.

    I think that 99% of people have become conspiracy theorists!

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