(AP) — Conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have flourished since the global pandemic was declared a year ago. Researchers want to know why, and are examining the reasons some people believe conspiracy theories and others don’t. They say conspiracy theories can give people a false sense of security during stressful times, and that political polarization and social media have only added to the problem.
The conspiracy theories have caused real-world problems: A vaccine clinic was delayed by anti-vaccine protesters, medical workers have been harassed, and cell towers have been burned because of bizarre claims about COVID-19. Researchers say their findings could help us improve our pandemic response while also addressing the broader problem of online misinformation.