Conspiracy myths are more likely to be believable as they are much more entertaining than reality.

The virus? A bioweapon, of course, devised to control humanity, to enslave them all, to drive them into darkness and to bind them eternally. It’s obvious. Who is Behind this plot ? Powerful men such as Bill Gates, George Soros or abstract structures of evil like the pharmaceutical industry and capitalism. ..Of course, they are also utilising the 5G mobile phone standard to do their work, through special microchips hidden in vaccines!

Who has heard this madness or read it at least once somewhere? Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has generated all types of conspiracy myths. In the wake of its outbreak, predatory narratives were spreading with astronomical incidence value of absurdity. As contradictory and risky as these stories are. The worse side of the story is that they are as difficult to control as the virus itself. Nothing seems too far-fetched to remain without an audience.

Myths help to endure uncertainties

One thing, however, must be said in defence of many myths: They are entertaining in a Dan Brown-like way, especially in contrast to the grey and confusing reality. Precisely this entertainment factor seems to be one of the reasons why the stories of the great conspiracy find followers. Psychologists led by Jan-Willem van Prooijen of the VU Amsterdam argue this andย present evidence for it in a study. According to the researchers, the emotional content of a story not only captivates the audience. It also lends the story at least a shot of credibility, regardless of the content.

The belief in conspiracies has probably been with people since they started telling each other stories. These myths help to bear uncertainty by reducing complexity, naming supposedly clear causes, dividing the world into good and evil. At the same time, such myths give their followers the feeling of belonging to the enlightened: Don’t you see that the systemic press is at work, that the organised patriarchy is spinning its strings, that high finance controls everything? Feeling like an enlightened person among the blind gives you a feeling of sweet superiority. And the more important one considers oneself to be part of a group, the higher the susceptibility to conspiracy thinking, psychologists say.

The researchers around Van Prooijen also compare conspiracy myths with horror films. Such shockers trigger more fear than good feelings, but are nevertheless attractive to many people – because these films arouse intense emotions. It is similar with tales of dark plots. These also trigger worries and anxiety, thus arousing tickles or intense emotions and reducing the critical distance to the content.

And let’s face it, the stories of the great Corona conspiracy may be completely insane. But they are, after more than a year and a half of incidence-lockdown talk show constant fire, stupidly a more entertaining alternative for many people. If only reality could be told in a more exciting way!

Sebastian Herrmann

Read the full ‘The entertainment value of conspiracy theories’ study here