Everyone knows that today we live in a scary unpredictable world. And some of us respond to our world in different ways. For instance, a few folks in the world as a place where things happen that make them very angry. One of the reasons for this is that our brain is an organ that likes to predict things. Therefore, it is always on the lookout for certain patterns and other things that stand aside from the ordinary. For years man has attempted to explain these things as a way to understand the world around him. We have seen that great thinkers from ancient times considered these explanations are just the way of making sense of our world.
How Illusions Manifest in the Brain
But as researchers have reported in a brand-new paper that was posted in the European Journal of Social Psychology, there are often times when people will see danger when there is no evidence or patterns to justify these thoughts. It seems as if their brain has created a pattern on its own account. This phenomenon is referred to as an illusory pattern perception and it is believed to be what causes people to believe in conspiracy theories. We have all seen them, it is those people who believe there is this suspicious story behind the 9/11 attacks, that the government had JFK assassinated, and that the illuminati is who really rules the world.
As it turns out, this study is very timely as recent polls have suggested that almost 50% of non-pathological, ordinary Americans tend to believe in a conspiracy theory.
This Illusory pattern perception — which is the act of see a pattern that isn’t there — are often linked to beliefs to conspiracy theories, but for now the assumptions have never been supported with any empirical data. Both Dutch and British scientists are behind this new study and are among the first to indicate that these explanations are correct.
Developing Irrational Beliefs
The scientists reached this conclusion after rigorously performing five studies on 264 people who concentrated on the correlation between this illusory pattern perception and irrational beliefs. Original test indicated that the compulsions to reveal patterns in observable situations were indeed linked to irrational beliefs. They found that those who would see patterns in arbitrary coin flips and abstract, chaotic paintings were much more apt to embrace conspiracy is theories.
This study revealed just how vulnerable people are to external influences as well. For instance, when they read material pertaining to paranormal incidents or conspiracy beliefs, it was found that these caused a “slight increase in the perception of patterns in coin tosses, paintings and life,” and if they read about a single conspiracy theory, then say were likely to believe in more of them.
“Following a manipulation of belief in one conspiracy theory people saw events in the world as more strongly casually connected, which in turn predicted unrelated irrational beliefs,” said the scientists.
These researchers conclude that these irrational beliefs are derived from these pattern perceptions simply due to the “automatic tendency to make sense of the world by identifying meaningful relationships between stimuli.” But aberrations do happen, and then the brain will connect dots which are virtually nonexistent. As it turns out, people are not that good at identifying what is random and often believe that these random patterns are really coincidences, and this will lead to irrational connections among unrelated stimuli. For instance, just because those who are powerful in our society are influenced by the wealthy, it doesn’t mean that these rich people are really Illuminati Satanists, which is something that many people happen to believe.
Remarkably, there are some scientists who have discovered a way in which to block these illusory pattern perceptions. North Carolina State University professor of psychology, Anne McLaughlin, has said that critical thinking can actually be taught. And if people were properly trained, false conspiracies and pseudoscience can be replaced with good reasoning and sound logic. She simply states that even when the brain tries to make false connections that is not a reason for someone to believe it.