The psychology and politics of conspiracy theories

EVENT: In the past year, conspiracy theories have had a big impact on politics and public health. What makes them so appealing? How can we disrupt their influence? Join us to explore these issues and more.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021 | 8:30AM San Francisco | 11:30AM New York | 4:30PM London

Conspiracy theories played a role in the insurrection at the US Capitol in January and continue to fuel resistance, in some circles, to getting vaccinated for Covid-19. It may seem like conspiracy theories are more prevalent now than ever, and more common on the political right than on the left — but are they really?

Recent research suggests that no one is totally immune. That’s because conspiracy theories tap into fundamental aspects of human psychology, helping to explain why they’re so alluring —and so hard to dispel once they take hold. Researchers are trying to develop ways to disrupt their influence on our minds and our society.

Join us for a discussion with two experts — a social psychologist and a political theorist —about the psychological underpinnings and political consequences of conspiracy theories.

Tune in to learn more and get your questions answered. And, if you can’t join us live, please register and we’ll send a link to the replay following the event.



Nancy Rosenblum, Harvard University

Dr. Nancy Rosenblum is the Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government emerita at Harvard University. Her field of research is historical and contemporary political thought. She is co-editor of the Annual Review of Political Science, and co-author with Russell Muirhead of the 2019 book A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy,   which argues that the rise of a new type of conspiracy thinking during the Trump era has undermined American democracy.

Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge

Dr. Sander van der Linden is Professor of Social Psychology in Society and Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. He has won numerous awards for his research on human judgment, communication and decision-making. He recently co-designed the award-winning fake news game “B ad News,” and frequently advises governments and social media companies on how to fight misinformation. His research is regularly featured in outlets such as the New York Times, NPR, Rolling Stone and the BBC. He is currently working on his new book The Truth Vaccine.


Greg Miller, science journalist and contributing editor to Knowable Magazine

Greg has covered biomedical and behavioral science research for nearly 20 years. Previously, he was a senior writer at Wired and a staff writer at Science. He has a PhD in neuroscience from Stanford University and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


This event is part of Reset: The Science of Crisis & Recovery, an ongoing series of live events and science journalism exploring how the world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, its consequences and the way forward. Reset is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Knowable Magazine is a product of  Annual Reviews, a nonprofit publisher dedicated to synthesizing and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and the benefit of society. Major funding for  Knowable comes from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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This article originally appeared in Knowable Magazine, an independent journalistic endeavor from Annual Reviews. Sign up for the newsletter.

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