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Principles of Conspiracy Theories


Techniques General Persuasion > Conspiracy Theories > Principles of Conspiracy Theories

Plausibility | Extrapolation | Collaboration | Secrecy | See also


Conspiracy theories often have similar characteristics that can summarized as the four factors described below. These patterns are not new and there were suspected conspiracies hundreds of years ago, all with very similar principles.


Conspiracy theories usually make great sense. It seems quite reasonable, for example, that governments would want to control populations, that companies want to maximize profit, that rich people want to stay rich, that troublesome people have enemies who would like to see them dead. and so on.

When there is little solid evidence for what is actually going on, plausibility allows the theorist to use the 'stands to reason' argument, asking why would the government not want to control, and so on.

The basic fallacy of conspiracy theories is that plausibility is equated with truth. If it seems it could be true, then it must be true.


The conspiracy is often based on a grain of truth. Governments do seek to control populations, companies do seek profit, rich people do like to stay rich, and so on.

This basic seed then extrapolated, enlarged and generalized until it becomes something grand, all-encompassing and usually unquestionably evil. Governments are hence assumed to be spying in detail on everyone, rich people plot together to secretly control markets, companies hide illegal profiteering and so on.

And indeed, governments and others who seek to gain or use power do sometimes over-step the mark, and sometimes these are made public. A single such instance is pounced upon as evidence of the larger conspiracy.


One of the common extrapolations is that people in power are working together, for example companies that should be competitors acting to fix prices, governments across the world fomenting wars for joint political purpose, and so on.

It is in the collaboration of people, including those who should be independent of one another, that conspiracies become conspiracies.


The illegality or probably social disapproval of the theoretical conspiracies makes it quite understandable that the conspiracy is kept secret. In fact even simple knowledge of its existence is so dangerous that its very existence is denied, and certainly any involvement of its key players.

The conspiracy theory includes all manner of secrets, such details of clandestined meetings, secret operations and massive cover-ups (such as contained in theories about President JFK being assassinated by government forces).

See also

Persuasion principles


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