The prevalence of conspiracy theories is astounding. Almost every
historical event or observable phenomenon seems to have at least one
conspiracy theory associated with it. Authors have proposed several
reasons why human beings are so drawn to conspiracy theories.
To account for variations in observation. Anyone who studies
history seriously knows that there is rarely a completely reliable,
authoritative version of the facts surrounding any notable occurrence.
The tidbits of inconsistency upon which most conspiracy theories rely
occur constantly in connection with any activity we undertake. It's
only when important activities are closely scrutinized that these
details receive close attention. In other words, it's natural for
people to believe that there should be no inconsistency in legitimate
activities. So if we observe an inconsistency, we take that alone as
evidence that the intuitive explanation must be flawed and we should
search for a more complicated answer.
As entertainment. Real life is boring. We constantly seek
to embellish it, whether formally through media such as motion
pictures or fictional literature, or informally through the
exaggeration of our personal experiences. It's more exciting to
believe that strange lights in the sky are visiting aliens and not an
airliner's landing lights. As astounding as the moon landings were,
it's even more astounding to suppose that the entire thing was
To seem intelligent. Conspiracy theories are often much more
elaborate than what's commonly believed about something. And they
usually require the listener to expand his understanding to accept the
possibility of a conspiracy. Those who casually examine photographs
of the lunar landings are impressed when they are led to discover
discrepancies. This inflates the ego and gives one the impression
that he is smarter than the dozens who look at the same photographs
and see nothing special.
To be "on the inside." The conspiracist fancies himself to
be elite, to be privy to secret information that few others have.
To express distrust for authority. Americans especially take
delight in distrusting authority, particularly governments.