Expert Guide to Conspiracy Theories

Expert Guide To Conspiracy Theories

[Unearthing stories from Academia]

There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there. Some are bizarre – like the idea that Elvis faked his own death. Or that Britain’s royal family are actually shape-shifting alien lizards. A growing number of people believe the world is flat. A lot of conspiracy theories relate to politics. That 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government so it could start wars in the Middle East. Or that powerful groups like the Illuminati are pulling the strings behind the scenes, plotting to establish a New World Order. Or that the new Coronavirus is a bio-weapon engineered by the CIA

Over five episodes, we speak to dozens of academics who have spent their careers researching different elements of conspiracy theories. Most are part of Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories, an international network of conspiracy theory researchers, which supported the making of this podcast.

Psychologists tell us why some people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than others, and why there’s a spectrum ranging from the conspiracy curious to hardcore believers. Anthropologists explain why conspiracy talk is commonplace in some parts of the world but not others.


part 1

Part one of the series explores what these many different ideas have in common and grapples with what actually makes something a conspiracy theory. We speak to Peter Knight, professor of American studies at the University of Manchester. He says there are three important characteristics to conspiracy theories:

part 2

Part two of the Expert guide to conspiracy theories, a series from The Conversation’s Anthill podcast, discovers who these people are. We find out what psychological factors influence whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not. And how things like the time and place that you live, who your friends are and who holds political power makes you more open to certain conspiracy theories.

part 3

The strange evolution of the conspiracy theory surrounding this short-lived secret society, mirrors the modern history of conspiracy theories.

part 4

Part four of the Expert guide to conspiracy theories from The Anthill podcast explores whether the internet has been a game changer in helping conspiracy theories go viral. How did conspiracy theories spread before platforms like Facebook and YouTube came along and gave everyone the power to broadcast their thoughts to the world.

part 5

This episode delves into some of the psychology behind what makes conspiracy theories dangerous. It also explores the relationship between conspiracy theories and the radicalisation of extremists. What are the best ways to talk to people who believe in conspiracy theories?

part 6

Media expert Marc Tuters talks us through the main coronavirus conspiracy theories that are doing the rounds and how they differ on various social media platforms. He tells us how they started to circulate back in January 2020 on the fringe message board website 4chan. Discussed is also what social media platforms are doing to limit the spread of this misinformation – and how effective this can be.