Thoughts on Record: Podcast of the Ottawa Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Dr. Joe Pierre - The Nature, Psychology & Danger of Conspiracy Theories

May 30, 2022 Season 3 Episode 11
Thoughts on Record: Podcast of the Ottawa Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Dr. Joe Pierre - The Nature, Psychology & Danger of Conspiracy Theories
Show Notes

The past 2 years appear to have precipitated an unprecedented rise in the dissemination and propagation of misinformation and conspiracy theories, leading to considerable distress and uncertainty around consumers of traditional media platforms as well as social media. Psychiatrist and professor, Dr. Joe Pierre, joins us for an extensive discussion of conspiracy theories in which we cover: 

  • Dr. Pierre's thoughts on the nature & severity of challenges involved in navigating the current information landscape
  • an evolutionary perspective around our biological capacity to effectively manage the amount of information we are exposed to on a daily basis
  • Dr. Pierre's  assessment of the health of society’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral coping strategies at the present time
  • tools/mindset that we can deploy to effectively navigate the massive amount of (mis)information that is out there.  
  • why psychiatric terminology is often misused and why terms like "mass delusion" and "mass psychosis" are not appropriate terms to describe widespread false beliefs (such as conspiracy theories)
  • how to balance engagement with media to remain appropriately informed without unduly evoking distress and a sense of helplessness/hopelessness
  • the environmental and psychological conditions under which people are most likely to be susceptible to misinformation and/or conspiracy theories
  • predatory use of misinformation and conspiracy theories by political entities 
  • critical consideration of whether conspiracy theories are more prevalent today
  • the personality traits and features that reliably predict engagement in conspiracy theories
  • distinguishing between extreme/rigid ideological beliefs and delusions
  • the role of the occasional validation of a conspiracy theory (i.e., variable reinforcement) in promoting belief in conspiracies  
  • consideration of the evidence that psychological interventions can be helpful in managing dysfunctional belief in conspiracy theories
  • strategies for mental health professionals and family members to best assist clients who are consumed by a conspiracy theory

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Dr. Joe Pierre is a Health Sciences Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is a graduate of MIT, the UCLA School of Medicine, and the psychiatry residency training program at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. He has extensive clinical experience working with individuals with psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, and those with “dual diagnosis.”  He has authored over 100 papers, abstracts, and book chapters related to schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications, substance-induced psychosis, delusions and delusion-like beliefs, auditory hallucinations and voice-hearing, and a variety of other topics including the neuroscience of free will and culturally sanctioned suicide. He also writes the Psych Unseen blog at Psychology Today and is working on a forthcoming book with the same title about the psychology of false beliefs.  Dr. Pierre serves as an expert witness and consultant in forensic/legal cases involving schizophrenia, the intersection of psychosis and religion, delusion-like beliefs and conspiracy theories, and the side effects of antipsychotic therapy. He has also been featured in numerous interviews for print media, radio, television, and a documentary film.