Did NASA fake the moon landing? Is the government hiding Martians in Area 51? Is global warming a hoax? The answer to these questions is, “No,” yet a committed subculture of conspiracy theorists vigorously argues the opposite.
Many scholars dismiss conspiracy theorists as paranoid and delusional. Psychological data bolster their case: people who harbor conspiracist thoughts are also more inclined to paranoid ideation and schizotypy, a mild form of schizophrenia. As conspiracy theory expert Timothy Melley of Miami University has put it, these beliefs are often dismissed as “the implausible visions of a lunatic fringe.”