Global responses to the COVID pandemic have highlighted a curious phenomenon: widespread community willingness to believe conspiracy theories. In this talk, Professor Hornsey draws on emerging research to discuss the psychology of why people might be prone to believe that networks of elites are banding together to conduct elaborate and malevolent hoxes on the public. He will discuss the implications of conspiracy beliefs for governments, businesses, and health officials, and examine strategies for defusing the damaging impacts of conspiracy theorizing.

Speaker biography:

Since graduating in 1999, Professor Matthew Hornsey has published over 130 papers, and in 2018, was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Scientists in Australia. A problem that has beenexamined throughout his career is: “Why do people resist apparently reasonable messages?”, Professor Matthew Hornsey focus on the psychology of how feelings of mistrust and threat can lead people to reject messages. These insights are then translated into concrete and do-able strategies for overcoming defensiveness. Specific examples include ARC-funded research on (1) why people embrace or resist scientific messages about climate change, vaccination, evolution, and so forth, (2) how people respond to gestures of reconciliation from transgressor groups (particularly apologies), and (3) what drives defensiveness in the face of group criticism and recommendations for change.


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