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Viral Thoughts: Why COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Persist

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Daniel Roberts poses for a picture Monday, April 5, 2021, in McMinnville, Tenn. Roberts received a COVID vaccine over the objections of his family, who are against being vaccinated. “Five hundred thousand people have died in this country. That’s not a hoax,” Roberts said, speaking of the conspiracy theories he hears from family and friends. ”I don't know why I didn’t believe all of it myself. I guess I chose to believe the facts.” (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(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.

 

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