Refusing to believe anything that doesn’t fit into the conspiracy theory. Note that “conspiracy theory” here is a fairly broad term and need not involve a global conspiracy (e.g., that NASA faked the moon landing) but can refer to small-scale events and hypotheses
The common pattern of holding a theory and assuming a conspiracy when evidence does not fit.
1. Hold a theory that man has dominion over all that swims, crawls, and flies when evidence reveals Homo sapiens exist as part of a web of life.
2. Hold a theory creation occurred 6,000 years ago and assume a conspiracy when evidence from anthropology, archeology, geology, etc. occur.
3. Hold a theory a superpower answers prayer and assume a conspiracy when people refute the premise.
4. Hold a theory … well, you get the picture.
THE CONCLUSION DOES NOT LOGICALLY FOLLOW FROM THE PREMISES.
Humans tend to have a normalcy bias and what is called cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is the tendency to continue to believe something erroneous in the face of masses of contrary evidence, due to the devastating psychological impact discarding the previous erroneous belief would have.
After all, Obama is a “liberal” president, isn’t he? “How could there be a massive conspiracy? If there were, they would all be caught! It’s just not possible,” the opponent says. That’s all “black helicopter, tin-foil-hat nonsense.” To those with low education or no critical thinking skills and common sense, it’s evident that none of these objections suffices to demonstrate that the conspiratorial view is false. From the fact that one is a “proud American” or that George Bush claimed to be a Christian, it does not follow that the conspiratorial view is false. This is called, in logic, a non sequitur. The conclusion does not logically follow from the premises.
What are the psychological forces at play in conspiracy thinking?
What’s happening in any conspiracy theory is that people have a need or a motivation to believe in this theory, and it’s psychologically different from evidence-based thinking. A conspiracy theory is immune to evidence, and that can pretty well serve as the definition of one. If you reject evidence, or reinterpret the evidence to be confirmation of your theory, or you ignore mountains of evidence to focus on just one thing, you’re probably a conspiracy theorist. We call that a self-sealing nature of reasoning.