Research Topic

The Psychology of Pseudoscience

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In recent years we have witnessed a boom in philosophical and psychological research on pseudoscience and related misbeliefs such as conspiracy theories. Not only are there more and more studies on the psychological factors involved in how humans produce and transmit pseudoscientific beliefs, but philosophers ...

In recent years we have witnessed a boom in philosophical and psychological research on pseudoscience and related misbeliefs such as conspiracy theories. Not only are there more and more studies on the psychological factors involved in how humans produce and transmit pseudoscientific beliefs, but philosophers are also making use of psychological insights to shed light on long-standing philosophical questions such as the nature of rationality and the demarcation problem. This collection is intended to take stock of these interesting developments and identify the ways in which the psychological study of pseudoscience and the philosophical thinking it inspires can move forward. More specifically the collection will address the following issues:

• Whether and to what extent does there exist a typical psychology of pseudoscience?
• To what extent does recent psychological research on personality traits, cognitive biases and human social interactions lead to this conclusion?
• Can we distinguish the psychology of pseudoscience from the psychology of science, or do we need more evidence to answer these questions?

Other research suggests that humans are not as gullible as we might think. This raises the question of how pseudoscience is possible. What strategies do pseudoscientific beliefs adopt to circumvent our natural vigilance and to become widespread? How does pseudoscience adapt to the human mind? Do pseudoscientific beliefs perhaps serve a non-epistemic function that can explain their popularity?
Pseudoscientific beliefs do not solely reside in minds, but people also transmit them by communicating with one another. This raises the question of what psychological processes involved in communication facilitate the spread of pseudoscience. And do modern technologies such as the Internet amplify their effect (or not)?

Human communication involves reasons, which is also the case with pseudoscience. Furthermore, the adherents of pseudoscience will not describe themselves as irrational. What is the role of reason in pseudoscience and what implications does it have for our understanding of rationality?

We invite potential authors to submit theoretical and philosophical articles that address one of the questions above or other questions relating to the central topic of this collection. We thereby encourage authors to ground their theoretical and philosophical reflections on empirical psychological research.

The article types are limited to Review, Opinion, Perspective, Hypothesis and Theory, and Conceptual Analysis. Please note that we do not accept Original Research studies in this Research Topic.


Keywords: Pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, irrationality, cognition, democracy


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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