Conspiracy theories may be a joke to most, but they’re real to a terrifying number of people. And they’re leaking off the internet into real life. One of the largest fires currently raging in California was allegedly started by a conspiracy theorist who believes in Pizzagate and QAnon, among other bizarre theories. Some of those theories have brought armed strangers into establishments, or led to hate campaigns that have cost people jobs. The internet makes it both much easier for them to spread, and much harder to disprove—and as U.S. political arguments take on the strategy of conspiracy theorist arguments, it’s only getting harder to sort truth from nonsense.
What happens to our minds that makes some of us buy in and then cling to these theories? Why doesn’t hard evidence shut them down? How can we stop theorists who are dangerously close from taking real action, and get them help? Our resident brain expert, U of T psych professor Steve Joordens, joins us to explain how what used to be simple bar chat fodder became something much more worrisome.