The COVID-19 pandemic provides fertile ground for the emergence and spread of new conspiracy theories, often with significant negative implications for public health and well-being. A new resource has been developed by experts in communications and the spread of misinformation to help people spot and respond to conspiracy theories.
“How to Spot COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories</a>,” was developed by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Ullrich Ecker, and Sander van der Linden.
According to the authors: “When people suffer a loss of control or feel threatened, they become more vulnerable to believing conspiracies. For example, the Black Death in the 14th century inspired anti-Semitic hysteria and when cholera broke out in Russia in 1892, blame fell on doctors and crowds hunted down anybody in a white coat.”
In order to avoid being misled by conspiracy theories, people can learn to identify them using certain “telltale thought patterns.” The document highlights seven traits of conspiratorial thinking: contradictory, overriding suspicion, nefarious intent, something must be wrong, persecuted victim, immune to evidence, and re-interpreting randomness.
In addition to the resource above, the World Health Organization has a myth buster resource that chronicles and dispels many current widespread myths about the spread and treatment of the SARS-Cov-2 and COVID-19.