New book explains how human brains are predisposed to believe conspiracy theories and political lies

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A new book explores how human brains are predisposed to believe conspiracy theories and political lies.

“I studied the words of big liars throughout contemporary history, from Hitler to Trump and found common patterns,” University of Toronto linguist Marcel Danesi told “As Cicero and other ancient rhetoricians knew, who controls the language controls thought.”

In his new book Politics, Lies and Conspiracy Theories: A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective, Danesi dissects the speech of prominent liars, dictators and hate groups and finds common threads, like the use of visually evocative and dehumanizing metaphors.

“Using such coded language reinforces the mind control that autocrats aim to exercise,” Danesi said. “Calling a group ‘dogs’ or ‘parasites,’ over and over, eventually becomes accepted as true.”

Danesi points to the Nazi regime, which described its targets as “pests” and “parasites” – terms that have been echoed more recently by white supremacists in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“Research shows that central metaphors ‘switch on’ existing circuits in the brain by linking together images and ideas, as for example linking a certain group to pests,” the semiotics and linguistic anthropology professor explained. “The more these circuits are activated the more hardwired they become.”

Danesi says our brains appear to be “predisposed” to these kind of thought formulas, which also allow us to accept conspiracy theories.

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