Study conspiracy theories with compassion

Elżbieta Drążkiewicz in Nature:

In 2019, a senior colleague warned me that my research focus was a niche area of a frivolous topic: conspiracy theories related to vaccine hesitancy among parents in Ireland.

My area is niche no longer. Motivated to end the pandemic, and to encourage vaccination and other health-promoting behaviours, many researchers new to the subject are asking how best to ‘confront’ or ‘fight’ conspiracy theories, and how to characterize people wary of medical technologies. But my field has worked for decades to push back on this tendency to pathologize and ‘other’. Whether researchers are trying to understand beliefs around vaccination or theories surrounding NATO, Russia and bioweapons labs, such framing limits what can be learnt.

Conspiracy theories are more about values than about information. Debunking statements might occasionally be effective, but does little to tackle their root cause. When investigators ask only about knowledge, they tend to see only ignorance as the root of the problem.

More here.