Unfounded theory used to reject COVID measures

An unfounded theory taking root online suggests that millions of people have been “hypnotized” to believe mainstream ideas about COVID-19, including measures to combat it such as testing and vaccination.

In posts shared widely on social media this week, efforts to fight the disease were dismissed with just three words: “mass-forming psychosis.”

“I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure healthy people who spend hours in line to get tested for the virus are mass-forming psychosis in action,” it reads. a tweet that has been liked over 22,000 times.

The term gained attention after it was launched by Dr. Robert Malone in the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” on December 31. Malone is a scientist who once researched mRNA technology, but is now a skeptic of COVID-19 vaccines that use it.

But psychology experts say the concept Malone describes is unsupported by evidence and is similar to theories that have long been discredited.

Here’s a look at the facts.

ALLEGATION: The concept of “mass training psychosis” explains why millions of people believe in a mainstream “story” about COVID-19 and trust the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

THE FACTS: Malone pointed out the unfounded theory on a podcast hosted by comedian and commentator Joe Rogan. During the episode, Malone questioned the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and claimed that mass psychosis caused “third of the population” to hypnotize him into believing what Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and the mainstream media say.

Malone went on to say that the phenomenon explained Nazi Germany.

“When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has a floating anxiety that things don’t make sense, we can’t figure it out, then their attention is focused by a leader or a leader. series of events on a small point, just like hypnosis, they literally become hypnotized and can be conducted anywhere, ”said Malone. He asserted that such people will not allow the “narrative” to be called into question.

Crediting a professor in Belgium, Malone also said in a December blog post that this “mass hypnosis” explains why millions of people are captivated by the “dominant narrative regarding the safety and efficacy of genetic vaccines”.

Psychological experts say there is no support for the theory of “psychosis” described by Malone.

“To my knowledge, there is no proof of this concept,” said Jay Van Bavel, assistant professor of psychology and neural sciences at New York University who recently co-authored a book on the identities of group. Van Bavel said he had never come across the term “mass-forming psychosis” in his years of research, and could not find it in any peer-reviewed literature.

“The concept has no academic credibility,” wrote Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews in the UK, in an email to The Associated Press.

The term also does not appear in the American Psychological Association’s dictionary of psychology.

“Psychosis” is a term that refers to conditions that involve a certain disconnection from reality. According to an estimate from the National Institutes of Health, about 3% of people experience some form of psychosis at some point in their life.

Richard McNally, professor of clinical psychology at Harvard University, wrote in an email that the people who support COVID-19 vaccines and public health advice are not illusory. On the contrary, they are “fully sensitive to the arguments and evidence presented by the scientific experts concerned”.

Health officials have found COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and effective, especially in terms of protection against serious illness.

Malone’s description of “mass training psychosis” sounds like discredited concepts, such as “crowd mentality” and “group spirit,” according to John Drury, a social psychologist at the University of Sussex in the UK. which studies collective behavior. The ideas suggest that “when people are part of a psychological crowd, they lose their identity and self-control; they become suggestible and primitive instinctual impulses predominate, ”he said in an email.

This notion has been discredited by decades of research into crowd behavior, Drury said. “No respectable psychologist agrees with these ideas now,” he said.

Many experts told the AP that while there is some evidence that groups can shape or influence behavior – and that people can believe and believe the lies advanced by the leader of a group – these concepts do not not involve the masses suffering from “psychosis” or “hypnosis.”

Steven Jay Lynn, professor of psychology at Binghamton University in New York, said that Malone’s argument that a group can “literally become hypnotized and be led anywhere” rests on a myth about l ‘hypnosis.

“His claim represents a serious misunderstanding of hypnosis and doubles the popular misconception that hypnosis somehow turns people into stupid robots who think what the hypnotist wants them to think and carry out orders. ‘hypnotist,’ Lynn said in an email. “The scientifically established fact is that people can easily resist and even object to suggestions.”

Before the concept of “mass training psychosis” took off in recent days, it had been spreading online in recent months.

Mattias Desmet, the professor in Belgium that Malone cited for framing the idea, did not respond to requests for comment. Malone also did not return a request for comment.


Fichera reported from Philadelphia; Kelety from Phoenix.


This is part of AP’s efforts to tackle widely shared disinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to the deceptive content circulating online. Learn more about fact checking at AP.

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