The founder of Conspiracy-Theory.eu is Dr. Christopher B. Germann (EU Marie Curie Alumnus / Ph.D., M.Sc., B.Sc.) who is a scientist and an interdisciplinary scholar with formal specialised training in cognitive psychology, social psychology, psychophysics, and neuroscience (inter alia). The research which forms the basis of Conspiracy-Theory.EU was funded by the European Union as part of the interdisciplinary Marie Curie Actions CogNovo program located at the University of Plymouth (United Kingdom).
What follows is statement by Dr. Germann which briefly outlines various motivational factors which provided impetus for the creation of this project.
On the Cognitive Science of Conspiracy Theories, Neoliberalism, and Academic Integrity
“Fundamental scientific questions concerning the rational and irrational factors which undergird conspiracy theories have engaged me during my entire PhD as a European Union funded Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Plymouth (United Kingdom). The nominal topic of my PhD was entitled “Irrational Decisions” (Project#14) and much of my empirical research focused on the basic mechanisms of perception, logical inference/reasoning, and unconscious processes in human judgments.
From a cognitive psychology perspective I reached the conclusion that “belief bias” (i.e., in conditional syllogistic reasoning), generic dual process accounts of cognition, and various models of selective (limited) attention provide excellent explanatory theoretical frameworks to analyse conspiratorial cognition in a systematic and scientifically valid manner.
In addition, research findings from contemporary neuroscience are of great pertinence in this context, for instance, studies on prefrontal executive functions, the neuroanatomy and processing characteristics of the limbic system (e.g., fear and the amygdalae), neurochemical dopaminergic activation of reward circuitry (viz., nucleus accumbens/ventral tegmental area), schema formation in higher-order associations cortices, regulatory/inhibitory top-down mechanisms, the rôle of the 5-HT2A receptor in pattern-recognition and creative problem-solving, the rôle of neuroplasticity in cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness, etc. pp.).
Furthermore, well-established theories in social psychology (especially inter-group dynamics, ostracism, and Social Identity Theory) provide analytical tools which afford an in-depth analysis of conspiracy theories and their function in social systems (cf. cybernetics). As a web-developer I am keenly aware of the importance of free access to information (i.e., the open-access/open source philosophy which enabled the evolution of world-wide-web) and the workings of the Public Relations (PR) industry and their utilisation of insights derived from the social sciences and humanities.
Summa summarum, these research domains are complementary with respect to each other and I am firmly convinced that interdisciplinary scholarship is of crucial significance for a scientifically valid understanding of conspiracy theories. Fragmentation of knowledge and a lack of meta-cognitive epistemological reflection (due to extraneous factors like publication pressure and group conformity influences which interact with characterological variables correlated with careerism, ego-centrism, and narcissism) are the primary impediments to this endeavor in the reigning, unfortunately predominantly neoliberal, mainstream academe mainstream academe; but see Prof. Noam Chomsky on the anti-Humboldtian neoliberal assault on academic institutions and academic freedom, an attack which is executed primarily by the military-industrial-entertainment complex and its associated co-opted myrmidónes.
~ Christopher B. Germann (2019)
Supplementary information can be found on the following websites which were created by Dr. Germann for the purpose of public dissemination:
Excerpt adopted from the CogNovo.Eu website
(accessed on May, 2016)
The interdisciplinary Marie Curie CogNovo program has been intentionally designed by the European Union and the University of Plymouth to discuss and disseminate a wide view on a diverse spectrum of topics including psychology, neuroscience, current affairs, basic science, humanities, and the arts, inter alia. Note that the views and opinions expressed on this website do not necessarily represent the opinions of any of the institutions mentioned on this website and belong exclusively to the copyright holder. The CogNovo program explicitly emphasises cognitive and social innovation, the generation of new ideas and perspectives, and the probing of boundaries, but see https://www.cognovo.eu/about/
CogNovo is a multi-national doctoral training network that offers research training in Cognitive Innovation, both as a new field of scientific investigation and as a strategy for research and innovation.
In the competitive, dynamic world in which we live, technological and social innovation is key to future economic success. Nature provides clues which can help us build a strategy for innovation. Humans, like other animals, actively explore their world, they respond to novel situations and problems by creating and evaluating potential solutions, they remember new information about the world and ways to behave gained in this process, and exploit this knowledge in subsequent thoughts and actions. In this process of directed creativity, essential cognitive abilities develop and become applied in novel ways. This is not creativity or innovation in a vacuum. What is critically important for social and technological progress is innovation within appropriate constraints; Cognitive Innovation. CogNovo aims to establish a firm scientific basis for cognitive innovation and a research training programme in which new researchers learn to adopt the self-aware, multi-faceted process of cognitive innovation (exploration/speculation, explanation/synthesis and exploitation/implication), applicable both to their research activities and their professional and personal development.
Researchers of the future need to be able to think creatively and critically. They need to understand the implications of their research; the potential benefits and negative consequences. They need to anticipate changes and proactively seek out new solutions to problems. They need to know how to transform their ideas into utilisable products and effective social innovations. CogNovo provides a wide-ranging curriculum designed to nurture curiosity beyond conventional discipline boundaries to enable CogNovo Fellows to graduate as confident, productive and insightful innovators, with the intellectual breadth and transferable skills necessary to take up the challenges of the future.
CogNovo draws on the unique composition of its multi-disciplinary consortium to offer complementary expertise across a wide range of disciplines:
Cognitive neuroscience: will explore the brain basis for cognition and the relationship between cognition, novelty and creativity. CogNovo Fellows will to learn how to apply neuroimaging technologies to investigate the neural basis for creativity in imagery and deception, and how novelty detection helps to shape cognition. This work will help to establish a scientific basis for cognitive innovation.
Computational modelling: of neurobiology and behaviour helps to derive theoretical models from empirical data. CogNovo Fellows will develop bio-inspired models that provide testable explanations for creative cognitive processes. Computational modelling provides important links between cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology and a basis for developing novel intelligent cognitive technologies.
Humanities: A strong Humanities perspective will help to broaden the scientific ear of CogNovo Fellows, offering new ways of thinking about problems by taking a transdisciplinary approach not normally considered within the scientific community. A particular focus will be on the human values important for sustainable innovation in technological applications.
Experimental psychology: Social innovation is seen as an important way to address societal needs, yet the impact of behaviour-change initiatives remains rather poor. CogNovo Fellows will work with a team of experimental psychologists to develop innovative solutions to the problems of alarm design, and medical communications and decision making, thus providing new insights into the basis for sustainable social innovation.
Creative arts: The creative industries are seen as an area for high growth potential in Horizon 2020. CogNovo Fellows will explore the dynamics of social creativity within interacting groups of adults and children, through direct engagement with creative practices at the arts/science interface.
Cognitive robotics: The development of human-like cognition in artificial robotic systems remains an unsolved problem, yet is a fundamental requirement for effective human-robot interactions. Drawing on studies of creativity in human cognitive development, CogNovo Fellows will investigate relationships between curiosity and creativity and whether artificial creativity can similarly support the development of artificial cognition.
Private sector involvement:
CogNovo enjoys substantial support from the private sector. Private sector partners include prominent industrial research labs (Sony, Philips), a private education provider (LogicMills), a company specialising in entrepreneurship and commercialisation of Intellectual Property (Frontier IP), arts organisations (Kin, R-Research, i-DAT), major international media archives (EYE Film Institute, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision), and a leading journal for the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts (Leonardo).