Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories

Rob Brotherton. Bloomsbury/Sigma, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-47291-561-0
Observing that conspiracy theories can be fluid in nature (“One person’s conspiracy theory is the next person’s conspiracy fact”), Brotherton, a former lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, nimbly sidesteps the rabbit hole of proving or disproving specific conspiracies by focusing on the phenomenon as a whole. The concept has been around at least since Nero’s alleged fiddling while Rome burned (as it turns out, he was out of town at the time and immediately sought to provide food and shelter for victims upon his return). 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. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/07/2015
Release date: 11/17/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4729-1563-4
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4729-1564-1
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