Boosting Psychological, Social Well-Being Could Play Role In Countering Conspiracy Theories, Misinformation About COVID-19, Opinion Piece Says
Nature: To counter conspiracy theories, boost well-being
Aleksandra Cichocka, political psychologist at the University of Kent and affiliate of the Nicolaus Copernicus University
“…[T]hose who believe conspiracy theories are less likely than those who don’t to comply with public health measures. The World Health Organization has called on countries to manage the spread of false information. But how? … [The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories] concludes that it is easier to spread them than to refute them. Correcting entrenched beliefs is very difficult. So it is better to prevent falsehoods taking root than to try to weed them out. That means looking beyond their content and the platforms and algorithms that fuel their spread. We need to examine what makes people susceptible. … The COVID-19 pandemic created a perfect storm for vulnerability to conspiracy narratives. Uncertainty and anxiety are high. Lockdown and social distancing bring isolation. People struggling to understand this unprecedented time might reach for extraordinary explanations. … Education counters conspiracy beliefs because it develops analytical thinking and because it empowers people. Other interventions could promote a sense of common identity, to boost feelings of belonging and meaning. What happened in New Zealand during the pandemic is encouraging. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed solidarity and transparent decision-making, and offered people a sense of purpose. Early data suggest that despite an increase in distress during lockdown, New Zealanders showed no increase in conspiracy thinking, and more trust in science. We should expand this approach globally” (11/10).