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Why COVID-19 conspiracy theories still exist

Provence, Rhode Island (Associated Press)-Daniel Roberts has not been vaccinated since he was 6 years old. His parents told him that vaccination was dangerous, and when the coronavirus arrived, they called it a scam. They say that vaccines are a real threat.

So when the 29-year-old Tennessee man shot COVID-19 at the local Walmart last month, it felt like an achievement. Break his past.

“There are half a million lives lost in this country. Roberts said of the conspiracy theory accepted by his family and friends that this is not a scam. “I don̵

7;t know why I don’t believe all of this myself. I think I choose to believe the facts. “

As the world struggles to get rid of the shackles of COVID-19, psychologists and misinformation experts are studying why the pandemic has generated so many conspiracy theories, leading people to avoid masks, social distancing and vaccines.

They found a link between false beliefs about COVID-19 and reliance on social media as a source of news and information.

They concluded that the COVID-19 conspiracy theory persists by providing a false sense of empowerment. By providing hidden or secret explanations, they give believers a sense of control in a situation that seems random or frightening.

These findings not only have an impact on the pandemic response, but also have an impact on the next “information disease”, which is a term used to describe the COVID-19 misinformation crisis.

Larry Carmona, a former American surgeon who served in the George W. Bush administration, said: “We need to learn from what happened to make sure we can prevent it from happening next time.” “The mask becomes a symbol of your party. People. Saying that vaccines are useless. The average person is confused: Who do I believe?”

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of Americans said that they believed the epidemic was “definitely” or “probably” caused deliberately. The investigation started in June. Other conspiracy theories focus on economic constraints and vaccine safety. These unfounded claims are increasingly causing real-world problems.

In January, anti-vaccine activists forced the vaccine clinic at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium to close for one day.In Europe, dozens of cellular towers were burned down Because the strange argument is that 5G wireless signals are triggering infections.Elsewhere, pharmacists ruined vaccine doses, Medical staff were attacked and hundreds died After eating toxins touted as a cure-all because of COVID-19 errors.

Helen Lee Bouygues, founder and president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, said that the most popular conspiracy theories can often help people explain complex, turbulent events, and the truth is unacceptable. age.

Such theories often appear after important or frightening moments in history: the moon landing, the September 11 attack or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when many people found it difficult to accept that a lonely, insane gunman could kill the president. . Big conspiracies involving the CIA, mobs or others are easier to digest.

“People need to make big explanations for major issues, major world events,” said John Cook, a cognitive scientist and conspiracy theory expert at Monash University in Australia. “Random explanations such as bats or wet markets are psychologically unsatisfactory.”

Cook said that this drive is so strong that people often believe in contradictory conspiracy theories. Roberts said, for example, his parents initially thought that COVID-19 was related to Cell Tower, and then determined that the virus was actually a hoax. He said that the only explanation they did not accept was an explanation from a medical expert.

Distrust of science, Institutions and traditional news sources are closely related to stronger beliefs in conspiracy theories, as is support for pseudoscience.

The false statements of US President Donald Trump and other leaders have further weakened trust in American institutions, and they have repeatedly underestimated Virus threats, recommendations Bleach is used as a treatment and has been destroyed His government’s own experts.

An analysis As determined by researchers at Cornell University, Trump is the biggest promoter of false coronavirus claims.Research also shows that conservatives are more likely to Believe in conspiracy theories or share COVID-19 misinformation.

Carmona said that he was recently speaking with a group of executives about the coronavirus when it was announced that the pandemic was caused by the Chinese government and Democrats to harm Trump’s re-election.

He said: “When people start to believe their own facts and reject what the other person said, we are in real trouble.”

The common distrust of American institutions helped unite several groups under the banner of COVID-19 conspiracy theories.These include extreme rightists who are dissatisfied with the blockade and cover-up missions, anti-vaccine activists and followers QAnon, Who believes that Trump is starting a secret war with the powerful satanic cannibal group.

In addition to an in-depth understanding of the COVID-19 conspiracy theory, researchers are also looking for solutions to a wider range of online misinformation problems. These include greater efforts and new regulations by social media companies.

Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have long been criticized for allowing misinformation to flood.They took more active actions Cook said that the misinformation about COVID-19 implies that the platform can take more steps to curb misinformation on other topics, such as climate change.

Cook said: “This shows that this is a question of will, not a question of technological innovation.”

Solving the appeal of our species to conspiracy theories may be more challenging. Experts say that teaching critical thinking and media literacy in schools is crucial because the Internet will only develop as a source of news.

In recent years, an idea called inoculation theory More and more prominent.It involves using online games Or a tutorial that trains people to think more rigorously about information.

An example: Researchers at the University of Cambridge created the online game “Go Viral!”., To teach players by letting them create their own misleading content.

Studies have shown that games increase resistance to online misinformation, but like many vaccines, this effect is temporary, which arouses the curiosity of researchers, as Cook said: “How do you provide them with booster injections? chance?”

One day, these games may be placed in front of online videos as advertisements, or promoted through prize promotions to regularly vaccinate the public against misinformation.

“The real solution is education,” Bouygues said. “The COVID shows us how dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories can be, and we still have a lot of work to do.”

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