If you believed Monsanto controlled 500,000 biologists who accepted GMOs and weedkillers worldwide while Whole Foods, with more revenue, was standing alone selling organic food that made you healthier, you are a conspiracy theorist. 

You're not alone, even if the demographics changed. A few years ago, conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his claims that cell phones cause cancer and vaccines cause autism were embraced by the crazy fringe of the Democratic Party, like Organic Consumers Association and their puppet attack groups such as US Right To Know and SourceWatch. Now he is embraced by the crazy fringe of the Republican party, who think the COVID-19 vaccine is a Big Pharma effort to control our brains.

In both cases, the people who really believe him about organic food or anything else are likely to be insecure, paranoid, emotionally volatile, impulsive, suspicious, withdrawn, manipulative, egocentric and eccentric. Basically, a faculty member of th NYU Journalism Department on the left or the...well, there is no right-wing university journalism department equivalent. Which is part of the problem, especially when it comes to public trust in science.

There is no question science has become political in the last 40 years, that occurred in the late 1980s after student loans became unlimited and student debt with it, which caused university salaries to increase dramatically and led to people using social connections to get those six-figure jobs at colleges. Once hiring committees were allowed to self-select, and then nearly everyone in the tribe voted the same way, it was easy for political beliefs to transform into bizarre scientific claims.(1) 

Even psychologists, who should be keen on being trusted guides regarding why these shifts happen, can't be, because in academia the social sciences are 99 percent voting the same way. 

A new paper hopes to do better, by clarifying the difference between those who believe in event-based conspiracies - e.g like that the Bush administration or Jews were complicit in the 9/11 terrorist attacks - and general 'it's all about control, man' networks.

The analysis of 170 surveys with over 158,000 participants linked the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism) to conspiracy beliefs, though weakly.

Does that mean those general personality traits are irrelevant to willingness to believe in conspiracy theories? It can't, psychology is all surveys so it can't establish or rule-out anything (paranoid people don't even fill out surveys truthfully), it is instead that people with those traits are more likely to believe the worst in those who are different than them. A disgruntled, paranoid journalism teacher in a school with 80 percent of people who were selected because they culturally think just like them will be more inclined to believe scientists are corporate dupes than a normal scholar at a university where they were hired on merit rather than on relationships.

It means we need a lot more variables, and a better way to learn the truth than surveys. That has always been the challenge in turning psychology into science.


(1) It is why schools like NYU will carry water for the organic industry and attack scientists - they believe in conspiracies because they don't know any scientists who are not part of their in-group. Anyone outside their tribe is a 'nazi' or corporate shill, and they make sure to indoctrinate students into that same thinking.