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Nothing Happens by Accident, or Does It? A Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories.
Psychol Sci 2015; 26(11):1762-70PS

Abstract

Belief in conspiracy theories has often been associated with a biased perception of randomness, akin to a nothing-happens-by-accident heuristic. Indeed, a low prior for randomness (i.e., believing that randomness is a priori unlikely) could plausibly explain the tendency to believe that a planned deception lies behind many events, as well as the tendency to perceive meaningful information in scattered and irrelevant details; both of these tendencies are traits diagnostic of conspiracist ideation. In three studies, we investigated this hypothesis and failed to find the predicted association between low prior for randomness and conspiracist ideation, even when randomness was explicitly opposed to malevolent human intervention. Conspiracy believers' and nonbelievers' perceptions of randomness were not only indistinguishable from each other but also accurate compared with the normative view arising from the algorithmic information framework. Thus, the motto "nothing happens by accident," taken at face value, does not explain belief in conspiracy theories.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Laboratory for Cognitive and Neurological Sciences, Department of Medicine, University of Fribourg sebastian.dieguez@unifr.ch.Department of Psychology, University of Fribourg.Human and Artificial Cognition Laboratory, University of Paris-Saint-Denis Department of Life Science, École Pratique des Hautes Études.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

26392260

Citation

Dieguez, Sebastian, et al. "Nothing Happens By Accident, or Does It? a Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories." Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 11, 2015, pp. 1762-70.
Dieguez S, Wagner-Egger P, Gauvrit N. Nothing Happens by Accident, or Does It? A Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(11):1762-70.
Dieguez, S., Wagner-Egger, P., & Gauvrit, N. (2015). Nothing Happens by Accident, or Does It? A Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Psychological Science, 26(11), pp. 1762-70. doi:10.1177/0956797615598740.
Dieguez S, Wagner-Egger P, Gauvrit N. Nothing Happens By Accident, or Does It? a Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(11):1762-70. PubMed PMID: 26392260.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Nothing Happens by Accident, or Does It? A Low Prior for Randomness Does Not Explain Belief in Conspiracy Theories. AU - Dieguez,Sebastian, AU - Wagner-Egger,Pascal, AU - Gauvrit,Nicolas, Y1 - 2015/09/21/ PY - 2015/04/08/received PY - 2015/07/13/accepted PY - 2015/9/23/entrez PY - 2015/9/24/pubmed PY - 2016/12/15/medline KW - algorithmic complexity KW - beliefs KW - conspiracist ideation KW - conspiracy theories KW - subjective randomness SP - 1762 EP - 70 JF - Psychological science JO - Psychol Sci VL - 26 IS - 11 N2 - Belief in conspiracy theories has often been associated with a biased perception of randomness, akin to a nothing-happens-by-accident heuristic. Indeed, a low prior for randomness (i.e., believing that randomness is a priori unlikely) could plausibly explain the tendency to believe that a planned deception lies behind many events, as well as the tendency to perceive meaningful information in scattered and irrelevant details; both of these tendencies are traits diagnostic of conspiracist ideation. In three studies, we investigated this hypothesis and failed to find the predicted association between low prior for randomness and conspiracist ideation, even when randomness was explicitly opposed to malevolent human intervention. Conspiracy believers' and nonbelievers' perceptions of randomness were not only indistinguishable from each other but also accurate compared with the normative view arising from the algorithmic information framework. Thus, the motto "nothing happens by accident," taken at face value, does not explain belief in conspiracy theories. SN - 1467-9280 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/26392260/Nothing_Happens_by_Accident_or_Does_It_A_Low_Prior_for_Randomness_Does_Not_Explain_Belief_in_Conspiracy_Theories_ L2 - http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797615598740?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub=pubmed DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -