As the pandemic continues to plague the world, misinformation and covid conspiracy theories abound. These include the potential origin of the virus and how it may spread. The World Health Organisation has labelled covid-19 an infodemic – where misinformation about coronavirus is spreading as fast as the virus itself.
There are many forms of misinformation circulating at the moment and many reasons why conspiracy theories continue to flourish.
Covid conspiracy theories doing the rounds
During lock-down, Ofcom surveyed UK consumers on their news consumption during the pandemic on a weekly basis.
Part of the survey looked at conspiracy theories respondents had heard about. In the survey’s most recent findings, the top five theories were:
Conspiracy theories thrive in uncertain times
Why are so many theories springing up now? One reason is conspiracy theories normally surface after traumatic events and during times of uncertainty.
These tend to surround major events that seemingly emerge from nowhere. People feel a need to explain such events to provide certainty.
In 2001, researchers studied how anger and fear affect how we see ourselves and the world around us. They found feelings of anger were associated with increased feelings of certainty and control. Fear, however, does the opposite. It makes us feel uncertain as if we have lost control over our lives.
As such, it makes sense that conspiracy theories have spread during covid-19. Amid the anger at a lack of concrete answers, people have made answers to help them feel certain about the world.
Conspiracy theories are founded in distrust
Another reason for conspiracy theories regards feelings of distrust. That may be distrust in a government, health authority or any public body exercising power.
It’s the belief “we are not being told the truth”. Many who believe in conspiracy theories share information as they believe it will help others understand the truth behind a complex situation. They spread this information as they believe it is for the “social good”.
However, most covid-19 conspiracy theories have been debunked by experts.
A 2017 study researched the type of people likely to believe in conspiracy theories and found: “Personality traits such as openness to experience, distrust, low agreeability and Machiavellianism are associated with conspiracy belief.”
Therefore, individuals who are more suspicious of those in positions of power tend to believe in conspiracy theories to a greater extent.
What to believe?
It’s only natural to want answers when we’re living through uncertain times. It’s understandable why some may try to understand covid-19 through the lens of misinformation. It provides quick “answers” that are hard to find elsewhere.
However, the best thing we can do at the minute is to follow the science. Listen to those who know best – the scientists and researchers involved in finding a vaccine. Doing so will make sure our time of uncertainty doesn’t last too long.
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