作者: 陈明 翻译 / 3736次阅读 时间: 2017年4月19日
来源: BPS 标签: 阴谋论

Why more highly educated people are less into conspiracy theories

In this era of “fake news” and rising populism, encountering conspiracy theories is becoming a daily phenomenon. Some people usually shrug them off – they find them too simplistic, biased or far-fetched – but others are taken in. And if a person believes one kind of conspiracy theory, they usually believe others.


Psychologists are very interested in why some people are more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, especially since the consequences can be harmful: for example, by avoiding getting their kids vaccinated, believers in vaccination conspiracies can harm wider public health; in other cases, a belief in a conspiracy against one’s own ethnic or religious group can foment radicalism.


One of the main differences between conspiracy believers and nonbelievers that’s cropped up in multiple studies is that nonbelievers tend to be more highly educated. For a new study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, Jan-Willem Van Prooijen at VU Amsterdam has conducted two large surveys to try to dig into just what it is about being more educated that seems to inoculate against belief in conspiracy.

出现在多次研究中的,阴谋论信徒或非信徒之间一个主要的差异是,非阴谋论的信仰者往往有更高学历。在一个新的应用认知心理学研究中,Jan Willem van prooijen在阿姆斯特丹先后进行了两次大的调查,试图从中挖掘到底是什么促使了更多的教育貌似对阴谋的新信仰有预防作用。

For the first survey, Van Prooijen recruited over 4000 readers of a popular science journal in the Netherlands, with an average age of 32. He asked them about their formal education level and their belief in various well-known conspiracy theories, such as that the moon landings were hoax; he tested their feelings of powerlessness; their subjective sense of their social class (they located their position on a social ladder); and their belief in simple solutions, such as that “most problems in society are easy to solve”.

对于第一次调查,Van Prooijen在荷兰招募了4000多名流行科学杂志的读者,平均年龄为32岁。向他们询问了他们接受的正规的教育水平,以及他们对各种众所周知的阴谋论的看法,例如登月骗局;他测试了他们的无力感;他们对自己社会阶层的主观感觉(他们在社会阶梯上的位置);他们对简单解决方案的信念,比如“社会上的大多数问题都很容易解决”。

The more highly educated a participant, the less likely they were to endorse the conspiracy theories. Importantly, several of the other measures were linked to education and contributed to the association between education and less belief in conspiracy: feeling less powerlessness (or more in control), feelings of higher social status, and being sceptical of simple solutions.


A second survey was similar, but this time Van Prooijen quizzed nearly 1000 participants, average age 50, selected to be representative of the wider Dutch population. Also, there were two phases: for the first, participants answered questions about their education level; feelings of power; subjective social class; belief in simple solutions; and they took some basic tests of their analytical thinking skills. Then two weeks later, the participants rated their belief in various conspiracy theories.

第二次的调查是相似的,但这一次Van Prooijen对近1000名平均年龄50岁的参与者进行了测验,被试以广泛的荷兰人为代表。除此之外,这次还有两个阶段:第一阶段,参与者回答的问题包括,他们的教育水平;权力的感觉;主观的社会阶层;简单解决方案的信念,同时对他们的分析思维能力进行了一些基本的测试。两周后,参与者评定了他们对各种阴谋论的信仰。

Once again, more education was associated with less belief in conspiracy theories, and this seemed to be explained in part by more educated participants feeling more in control, having less belief in simple solutions, and having stronger analytical skills. Subjective social class wasn’t relevant in this survey.


Taken together, Van Prooijen said the results suggest that “the relationship between education and belief in conspiracy theories cannot be reduced to a single psychological mechanism but is the product of the complex interplay of multiple psychological processes.”

总之,Van Prooijen说,结果表明:“教育与信仰阴谋论之间的关系不能沦为单一的心理机制,而是多重心理过程之间复杂相互作用的产物”。 

The nature of his study means we can’t infer that education or the related factors he measured actually cause less belief in conspiracies. But it makes theoretical sense that they might be involved: for example, more education usually increases people’s sense of control over their lives (though there are exceptions, for instance among people from marginalized groups), while it is feelings of powerlessness that is one of the things that often attracts people to conspiracy theories.


Importantly, Van Prooijen said his findings help make sense of why education can contribute to “a less paranoid society” even when conspiracy theories are not explicitly challenged. “By teaching children analytic thinking skills along with the insight that societal problems often have no simple solutions, by stimulating a sense of control, and by promoting a sense that one is a valued member of society, education is likely to install the mental tools that are needed to approach far-fetched conspiracy theories with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

重要的是,Van Prooijen表示,他的调查结果有助于理解为什么教育可以促成“一个更不偏执的社会”,即使在阴谋论没有明确地被质疑的时候。“通过传授儿童的分析思维技能,以及社会问题往往没有简单的解决方案,通过激发控制感,并通过促进人们认为他们是社会重要成员的观点,这样,教育很可能会成为安置心智的一个工具,以一种健康的怀疑态度来处理牵强附会的阴谋论。”

—Why Education Predicts Decreased Belief in Conspiracy Theories

TAG: 阴谋论
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