We're All Conspiracy Theorists

Through a study of human psychology, "Suspicious Minds" suggests that we’re all conspiracy theorists—some of us just hide it better than others.


| June 2016



Conspiracy theory word cloud

Conspiracy theories are as likely to appeal to women as to men, college students as to retired professors, middle-class bloggers as to blue-collar workers.

Photo by Fotolia/ ibreakstock

The human brain is wired to see patterns and to weave unrelated data points into complex stories. We instinctively see events in the world in terms of human motives and intentions, leading us to discount the role of chance and unintended consequences. We look for some hidden meaning behind catastrophic events. In Suspicious Minds (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016), Rob Brotherton explores the phenomenon of conspiracy theories and reveals the important consequences they can have — from discouraging parents from vaccinating their children against deadly diseases to hampering political policies to combat climate change. And by the end, Suspicious Minds proves that conspiracy thinking doesn’t just come from a handful of people who wear tin-foil hats and have bizarre ideas about aliens, but from each of us.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

Down the Rabbit Hole

All is not as it seems. There is a hidden side to reality, a secret realm buzzing with clandestine activity and covert operations. This invisible network constantly screens, sifts, and manipulates information. It conjures up comforting lies to hide the real, bewildering truth. It steers what we think and believe, even shapes the decisions we make, molding our perception to its own agenda. Our understanding of the world, in short, is an illusion.

Who is behind this incredible scheme? Some sinister secret society? Psychopathic bureaucrats in smoke-filled boardrooms? The Queen of England? The intergalactic shape-shifting lizards who she works for? All of the above?

No. This is an inside job. It’s not them — it’s us. More specifically, it’s you. More specifically, it’s your brain.