To understand why there’s so much misinformation out there — for example, that the virus was purposely created in a lab — The Verge spoke with John Cook, a cognitive science researcher at George Mason University and one of the authors of a new Conspiracy Theory Handbook.
…[Cook:] Why has the conspiracy theory about the virus being engineered in labs become so popular?
In the handbook, we talk about different conditions that make the public more vulnerable to conspiracy theories, more likely to gravitate toward them. And I think the two that are really applicable to this situation is the feeling of powerlessness and coping with threat.
If your goal is to convince conspiracy theorists, then an empathetic approach is necessary just to have a genuine dialogue.