‘I-know-it-when-I-see-it’ 5-6-2023

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‘I-know-it-when-I-see-it’ 5-6-2023

Date Published: 5 June 2023

Lecture: The Unviable and Easily-abused `I-know-it-when-I-see-it’ Standard in the Social Psychology of Conspiracy Theory, by Dr. M R. X. Dentith for the Extreme Beliefsproject.

In this paper I examine the role of motivating examples – examples typically used by researchers at the beginning of their articles to motivate the issue or problem they want to resolve or address – in the social psychological work on conspiracy theory. I argue that the abstract and vague way that social psychologists employ such motivating examples ends up relying on what Joseph Uscinski and Adam Enders deem as an unviable and easily abused `I-know-it-when-I-see-it’ standard. As such, much of the recent work in the social psychology of conspiracy theory assumes and thus fails to establish what is supposedly problematic about belief in conspiracy theories. This is because such work fails to adequately capture belief in actual conspiracy theories, let alone establish a case for a general suspicion of such beliefs.