A kind of comforting story-telling: the conspiracy theories

  • Valentina Cardella
Keywords: conspiracy theories, delusion, paranoia, confirmatory bias, social media


Delusion, i.e. a false belief firmly held despite contradictory evidence, has been always regarded as a peculiar feature of mental disorder (APA 2013). Recent research has yet softened this thesis, supporting a more continuistic perspective, which considers the delusion as the extreme of a spectrum that goes from unusual beliefs, to pre-psychotic bizarre ideas, to real delusional beliefs (Murphy et al. 2010). Within this continuum, where do those peculiar, but very popular and largely shared beliefs, typical of conspiracy theories, lie? It is a matter of fact that these theories, even if they are patently false, are today more and more fascinating (Dozon 2017). How can we explain this fascination? I will try to answer this question by showing how conspiracy theories take advantage of the paranoid defence universal mechanism, to develop a consolatory story-telling: on this consolatory feature relies their peculiar fascination. I will also try to show those characteristics which make conspiracy theories a part of the same continuum which delusional beliefsbelong to, focusing precisely on the tendency of these theories to obsessively explain every single aspect of a specific event, living no room for uncertainty, in some sort of pathologic delusion of omnipotence (Oliver, Wood 2014; Douglas et al. 2017). Finally, I will take into account the social media’s role, in that they can rapidly spread and bolster not only conspiracy theories, but also all those bizarre beliefs which, in the pre-internet era, remained a prerogative of few people (Møller, Husby 2000; Bessi et al. 2015).


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How to Cite
Cardella, V. (2022) “A kind of comforting story-telling: the conspiracy theories”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio. doi: 10.4396/SFL2021A05.