A Neuroscientist Explains What Conspiracy Theories Do To Your Brain | Inverse


(tense music) – Of course, it’s all connected. This conspiracy goes
all the way to the top. That’s right, I’m talking
about the human brain. I’m Shannon and I’m a
neuroscience Ph.D. candidate, and this is your brain
(dramatic music) on conspiracy theories. (dramatic music) Conspiracy theories are having
a renaissance right now. It seems like every day
we hear about a rapper who believes that the Earth is flat, or an athlete who believes
that the moon landing is fake, or that a super-advanced race of aliens have infiltrated the Earth
and they live among us, as they prepare for invasion and the eventual enslavement
of the entire human race. So how is the otherwise-working brain able to believe in such far-fetched ideas? The human brain is wired to see patterns to help us survive. Dark clouds mean a storm is coming. A mysterious shadow means a predator is trying to murder
you, that sort of thing. Sensing patterns can save your life. Pattern processing became
increasingly sophisticated with expansion of the cerebral cortex, particularly the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in image processing. As we evolved, the brain got
so good at finding patterns that it sometimes sees a pattern in completely unconnected data. Enter the conspiracy theory.
(dramatic music) Conspiracy theories
generally refer to explaining important events as secret
plots by powerful groups. (laser beeps) (snores) People who believe in conspiracy theories have brains that are more prone to illusory pattern perception, AKA finding connections
when there are none. In one study, researchers flipped coins and asked subjects to record the results. People who thought they saw patterns in the random coin flips were more likely to believe in at least one
major conspiracy theory. So why do conspiracy
theorists sometimes see connections that just aren’t there? Neuroscientists believe it may be due to extra dopamine in their brains. (gasps) Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in emotion, reward, and cognition. It’s thought to be especially
important in decision-making, as it helps people find signal in noise. People with genetically
higher levels of free dopamine are more likely to believe in one or more conspiracy theories. In fact, in an experiment
where a drug to increase dopamine levels was
administered to non-believers, they behaved more like believers, seeing patterns in random shapes. (light clicks) But it just doesn’t add up. Egyptian alien gods, flat
Earth, Illuminati, lizard men, how can conspiracy
theorists keep on believing these improbable ideas
without coming to terms with the literal mountains of evidence? Unless, that’s it. (tense music) Confirmation bias. Once the brain sees a pattern, information which supports it is easily assimilated to the brain, and acts to reinforce
belief in that pattern. The brain pays attention to information simply because it agrees
with a current belief, while disregarding
anything to the contrary. Ironically, the explosion of
information on the internet may have made the problem
worse, not better. Conspiracy theorists can now accumulate lots and lots of misinformation, creating communities in echo chambers, which only act to reinforce
their conspiracy beliefs. (sighs)
(playful music) And that brings us to fear of the unknown. The amygdala and the insula are the drama queens of the brain, and they will raise the alarm
in uncertain situations. Feelings of powerlessness
can compel a person to try to find order in chaos, and that often means finding
patterns where there are none. Studies show that people
will gravitate towards conspiracy theories if they feel as if they have no power in their own lives, and although it may seem fun to think we live on a flat disc controlled by NASA, disregarding science and facts
can be extremely dangerous, and while you can’t force
someone to stop believing in a conspiracy, research
suggests that there may be a way to turn these people around. Empowering people by encouraging them to take action in their own personal lives can reduce feelings of helplessness, and in turn, reduce the
reliance on conspiracy theories, and luckily, you don’t
have to return your hat when you stop believing,
which is a good thing, because it’s a pretty
incredible fashion choice. Am I right? This looks good. (tense music) – [Man] Action. – Conspiracy theories generally. (laughs) – [Man] Cool, all right, let’s go again, let’s get a little more smoke, fog it up. – [Man] Directly in.

53 thoughts on “A Neuroscientist Explains What Conspiracy Theories Do To Your Brain | Inverse

  1. While I appreciate the fun and interesting video, I wish we could just have a "Too long, didn't view," sub tag – "Scientists think it's due to two reasons: 1.excess dopamine in the brain, 2. They feel powerless over their own lives."

  2. Now I don't believe the Earth is flat, but what I don't like is the fact the unspoken societal understanding that the geometric proportions of the Earth is something I am not allowed to question. What I find so troubling about the pushback against the Flat Earth theory, is that it is treated less like a scientific disagreement, and more like the violation of Dark Age heresy laws. And as a believer in man made global warming, this is most disturbing when people run from debates with global warming deniers trying not to validate them, as it in fact only strengthens the position of the deniers. If your ideas are correct, they can withstand the pressure.

    What is unfortunate is how in polite society the term "conspiracy theory" has become more of a pejorative rather than to mean simply suspecting a cause behind certain events that is hidden to the public eye. Which can be seen in full display in this video where the term "conspiracy theory" is synonymous with an idea being untrue. For example most people who believe that Trump colluded with Russia will argue for why Trump is in fact a traitor if you were to call the idea a conspiracy theory because of how deeply ingrained the negative public attitude towards the term is. When it is unquestionably by definition a conspiracy theory, the difference being this one is publicly accepted.

    The issue I take with most skeptics is their blanket dismissal of ideas that do not conform to what is already accepted societal viewpoints, even in light of extraordinary evidence. To my mind the best evidence of this is the Crop Circle phenomenon. While the origin of the phenomenon is debatable, from the extensive research I've done into the matter, when the evidence is dispassionately viewed in it's entirety in good faith, there is no reasonable version of events that explain the formation of Crop Circles that doesn't throw into question everything we think we know about the Universe and our place in it.

  3. Full disclosure, I find them fascinating. What I feel hurts Conspiracy Theorists the most is that there is no distinction between the truths and theories. Everything that the masses don’t know or don’t believe get placed in the bubble regardless of fact. They tend to be prone to confirmation bias as well and automatically put whatever a CT is taking about as “fake”. MK Ultra, the business plot, even the existence of Area 51(not referring to what is done there) all fall under Conspiracy Theories despite them being true.

  4. Presenting the idea that our brains were at one time much smaller and needed to evolve & grow into what we have today (as seen in this video starting about 1:10), fits right in with those conspiracy theories she was talking about. Science is wonderful and has answered so many questions, irrefutably. So why the need to claim knowledge scientists just don't have yet? It's ok to say "We think this is why…" or "We're not sure but…" or "The current working theory is…". Those are all preferable to passing off guesses as fact then having to change everything when they do figure it out. The general public would certainly take their recommendations more seriously if scientists would do this.

  5. This video is almost insulting to people who critically think and do a lot of in depth research. This ignorant lying bitch is deplorable.

  6. It's pretty retarded to believe that there have not been any conspiracies, are no conspiracies and will not be conspiracies in the future. There are real conspiracies and false conspiracies, for example false flag operations by politicians and countries, you really have to specify conspiracies that have no validity, or no probability, and no proof versus the ones that do. You are doing a disservice to humans if you discount all conspiracies, creating more delusion in the masses. You obviously don't know a lot about the geopolitics, espionage in the world in the past present and in the future. For the example I will use that the US government in the United States lied through their teeth to invade Iraq which is a conspiracy that was uncovered. Please stop living in delusional Lala naive land. Do you believe that there are useful idiots, or that expression?

  7. You're playing a little fast and loose with the applications of apophenia, while ignoring other much stronger and more specific cognitive biases, like projection bias, intentionality (aka attribution) bias and proportionality bias.

  8. Guys! Can you please make video more scientific and less MTV? We don't need the special effects. It annoys. Just give us the info. Thanks.

  9. Thanks, the brain chemistry info makes sense. I sincerely wish she (this presenter) and others would say “SOME” conspiracy theorists because when ya don’t say SOME, you discredit the scientific researchers (like herself) who have put a lot of time, effort and honesty into research to lay out the hard facts and proof behind attempted cover-ups by people who have the power and means to do so for some kind of benefit.

  10. I love how when folks see things right in front of them they are then told "thats not what you saw.. you saw this"…. There ARE conspiracies hon.. the Flat earth thing was a psyop to yet throw another label upon folks who question and to discredit them!.

  11. oh.. so then she shows her being in a cellar storing food storage (prepping) and basically connecting the RATIONAL act of prepping (I Mean what is wrong with storing extra food and water in case of a disaster??? ) with Flat earth ????? SERIOUSLY? See, this is the RIDICULE that is so pernicious among so called "skeptics".. they make them appear that anyone who questions or does a reasonable action such as organizing emergency supplies as being "crazy" or "having too much dopamine" therefore something is WRONG with them.. ugh…

  12. the only thing I agree with is the ACTION part. Yes.. do your homework. Don't let folks keep occulting knowledge from you. I recommend checking this out…. http://www.whatonearthishappening.com/podcast-in-order

  13. All of this sounds quite reasonable, but to pretend that powerful people do not engage in planning their actions is naive. History is replete with example of successful conspiracies. Here's an obvious one from fairly recent history, Hawaii. Research how that island nation, recognised as such internationally, was nevertheless "captured" by the US. So while I agree that the Earth is not flat and that we did indeed land on the moon, dismissing all conspiracies as overactive dopamine or whatever is foolish.

  14. I released a video on Moon Landing denial on my channel recently. I don’t aim to convince the nutcases, just provide evidence and a light dusting of ridicule!‬ 😂

  15. All you say makes sense. I would add on top of it, that many of these conspiracy theories believers are also pretty dumb.
    A guy I know lives in the world of "us vs. them"
    Everything is the lie. There is cancer treatment hidden from us. Politics , economy …. everything is the conspiracy.
    Nasa landed on Mars 50 years ago. Nasa has been observing the other civilizations for decades now – that is what he believes.

    That guy lacks the basic knowledge of EVERYTHING.
    I found out , that he has no idea what is the difference between the speed of sound and the speed of light. He has zero clue what the speed of light actually is.

    And it is the same about everything else. Zero knowledge , but very strong opinion about everything.

  16. In my world travels I have met some amazing and wonderful people. One of them was a major conspiracy theorist from the USA. He believed in the Illuminati, and other secret organisations. Also, he spoke a lot about the Power of Demons, and Demonic Conspiracies. According to my friend, a famous magician in the 20th century had found a means of conjuring up demons to control them and make them do his bidding. But the spell had backfired-leaving the magician insane. My friend then said it was because the magician had chickened out. It was weird, because he could seem so intelligent, so fascinating and so erudite for a long time, and then just veer off into total Lunacy. I can see how your explanation would fit poorly-educated people. But the guy I am talking about has a Master's degree, and is highly-educated. My feeling is that it could be childhood trauma. Or his time in the military. He was a US soldier for many years and spent a while in the Special Forces. That can sometimes have effects on thinking. In his case, he dealt with the feeling of helplessness by being super-prepared, by being the best soldier, super-strong, and super-wary. Some conspiracy theorists are highly intelligent, and super-prepared. But inside the feeling of helplessness remains.

  17. I once subscribed to myriad conspiracy theories. After I emerged from that belief system, I understood that it was my, "hyperactive pattern seeking" that had landed me there. As well as a lack of training in philosophy, without which I had no disciplined way of determining what is true. Add ego, and perceived access to privileged information, and one feel smarter than others.

  18. Where there's smoke there's a fire, off course there are some ridiculous ideas out there but some of these theories are not just theories but are based in truth, i am very interested in such discussion especially when there are some facts that can be checked and can lead to other facts that give the impression of the exact opposite than the narrative. These cases are usually the ones that endure or after some time are found to be the whole truth. The best example is 9-11 where it turned out much of what the theorists theorized about was right: the right people did know and NOBODY acted on it when they should have, that's a proven conspiracy from the heart of government just because the result could be molded to serve their needs and wants from which they knew the public would never go along with an invasion without a proper cause ('we need the next Pearl Harbor to make it happen' really: i'm totally against the death penalty but if these foul kind of acts of treason were 2 be met with a absolute and certain death sentence i'll understand and would agree), as several other in history that were classified too outrageous and also turned out to be just the case (JFK assasination, bay of pigs, etc.). Never dismiss anything without proper investigation, the lack of evidence or a highly questionable abundance (as with 9-11) can be evidence of a cover-up or conspiracy in itself. I usually take in all i can and put it on the 'backburner' to revisit it once there is new additional information, that does not mean it's nothing more than theory.

  19. While today's conspiracy theories ultimately get to the "conspiracy" part out of necessity ("Globe Earth Theory is all massive lies"), they do not arise out of finding seeming connections between unconnected data points; rather, they start with identifying seeming contradictions in the "standard model," usually out of gaping scientific illiteracy. So, "CO2 is only a trace gas that plants depend on" for global warming, "it's impossible to survive the Van Allen Belts" for Moon hoaxerism, etc. The "global conspiracy" part (e.g.,"UN Agenda 2030 for Socialist takeover", "NASA's making it all up", etc.) emerges only secondarily as a logical necessity to explain the otherwise preposterous.

  20. So conspiracy theories are irrelevant and non sense?? Until something comes to you attention that u don’t like and speak up …..she is gaslighting this is gaslighting, and just because things are irrelevant to each other u can still use that data to campare difference??

  21. More like, what does decades of brainwashing from the secret societies, globalists, satanic elites with their daily bombardment of bs lies by the media, governments, education system, the acting & television industry’s etc do to your brain ? 🧠 😬🙄🤷🏼‍♀️

  22. Conspiracy nutters are also usually less educated, have a loose grasp about the line between fantady and reality (which is why a lot of conspiracy nutters are religious), as well as being borderline schizo effective disorders.

  23. Conspiratorial people create myths and legends. Conspiracy theories include the Nixon burglary of the DNC HQ. People are entertained or entranced by mythological or odd patterns in data. Conspiracy theorists is defined as people who unpack nonsense and debunk it and those who follow factual evidence and produce a valid conclusion. Some are in the middle and get things wrong. Some are irrational hype train riders or have mental difficulties leading them to absorb poor arguments as truth. I up-voted this video but also find it to be a stereotype more than substantive evidence based conclusions. If you don't research, you don't learn. If you can't change your conclusion based on new evidence, you're delusional.

  24. What a basic bitch. There are patterns in coin flips it’s called probability. Since when is critical thinking a bad thing? Labelling people ‘conspiracy theorists’ because they want to learn and challenge propaganda and rhetoric. Making out as if increased dopamine is a bad thing. They don’t want you learning or educating yourself, they want lazy, dumbed down consumers, suckling at the teat of government. And if you have to ask who are ‘they’ then you are obviously the latter.

  25. What a basic bitch. There are patterns in coin flips it’s called probability. Since when is critical thinking a bad thing? Labelling people ‘conspiracy theorists’ because they want to learn and challenge propaganda and rhetoric. Making out as if increased dopamine is a bad thing. They don’t want you learning or educating yourself, they want lazy, dumbed down consumers, suckling at the teat of government. And if you have to ask who are ‘they’ then you are obviously the latter.

  26. What a basic bitch. There are patterns in coin flips it’s called probability. Since when is critical thinking a bad thing? Labelling people ‘conspiracy theorists’ because they want to learn and challenge propaganda and rhetoric. Making out as if increased dopamine is a bad thing. They don’t want you learning or educating yourself, they want lazy, dumbed down consumers, suckling at the teat of government. And if you have to ask who are ‘they’ then you are obviously the latter.

    Also gotta love the Roswell plug at the end too. Unbelievable that we live in a time of such idiocracy.

  27. LMAO!!!! Instant fan XD this is great video, very creative, funny as hell and informative. Well done on the transitions too! I used to be into conspiracy theories when I was in my young 20s, thank god I got over them hahaha, I just slowly came to realisation that it was all in my head 🙂

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