Academics have launched an interactive game to promote critical thinking and debunk some of the most prominent conspiracy theories. The initial results showed a 30% increase in skepticism among players.
The School of Thought, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering critical thinking and academics from Cambridge and Queensland universities, has recently unveiled a new game titled "The Conspiracy Test." This game is designed with the aim of enhancing skepticism towards conspiracy theories, as anticipated by its creators.
The creators are taking a different approach to debunking conspiracy theories by emphasizing the promotion of critical thinking and humor. Typically, debunking conspiracy theories is challenging, as believers often become defensive and, paradoxically, more convinced that something is being hidden from them.
The creators of the Conspiracy Test designed the platform to help people think critically on their own instead of just simply denying the conspiracy. David McRaney, a Director of The School of Thought and author of the best-selling book ‘How Minds Change,’ says that humor was a key element of the design.
“By acknowledging the existence of real conspiracies and making the interaction a little less serious, we hope to reduce defensive attitudes and open people up to explore their beliefs honestly, critically, and without the threat of judgment,” he said.
Those intending to take the conspiracy test will be asked to choose one of the well-known conspiracy theories that they believe could be true. The list includes such conspiracies as:
- The COVID-19 “plandemic”
- MMR vaccines cause autism
- The world is controlled by shadowy cabals like the Illuminati
- Global warming is a lie to control energy resources
- 9/11 was an inside job
- 5G towers cause diseases
- The Moon landing was faked by the US government
- The Earth is actually flat
- QAnon satanic organization is running a global child sex ring and Donald Trump fought against it
- The government is hiding evidence about aliens
- Princess Diana was killed by the Royal Family or faked her own death and is still alive
Once you pick a theory that you’re doubtful about, you’ll be presented with a series of tasks featuring a ‘Deep-state Alien Illuminati Lizard’ named Captain Zardulu. While asking questions, the presenter tries to increase the levels of skepticism regarding the conspiracy theory.
According to the creators, the initial results of the interactive game show a 30% average increase in skepticism for popular conspiracy theories such as QAnon and Climate Change denial.
“Conspiratorial beliefs are connected with issues of trust, power, and control, so giving individuals the agency to evaluate conspiracy theories critically on their own terms may help improve rationality,” said Sander van der Linden, Professor of Social Psychology at Cambridge University, author of the book ‘Foolproof,’ and an advisor to the project.
A survey conducted by The School of Thought revealed that a significant majority of Americans think conspiracy theories negatively impact society. Additionally, over a quarter of respondents mentioned that these theories had harmed their relationships.
“Many people are torn between not wanting to argue with a family member about their conspiracy beliefs and worrying about them going down harmful rabbit holes. We hope to learn and share what works best to help people bolster their critical defenses against misinformation and narrative manipulations,”said Jesse Richardson, CEO of The School of Thought.
“We’re primarily interested in reaching the ‘conspiracy curious’ rather than the much smaller cohort who have strong and entrenched beliefs about conspiracy theories,” he added.
As outlined in the study published by the European Commission, there’s a link between conspiracy theories and various forms of extremism. Research indicates that individuals on the extreme left and right are more prone to believing in conspiracy theories compared to moderates.
According to the Commission, conspiracy theories, in various instances, may be linked to radical behavior, racist views, authoritarian attitudes, and extremist ideologies, exerting a negative impact on society.
This includes reinforcing extremist narratives, undermining trust in governments, promoting hate speech, disregarding evidence, attacking experts without proper verification, and potentially inciting violence.
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