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Author and professional poker player Annie Duke on how conspiracy theories gain ground

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Earlier today, Facebook said it has removed hundreds of QAnon groups from its site, and that it’s restricting many  more groups, along with hundreds of pages, and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts.

As the New York Times observed in its report about the maneuvers, four-year-old QAnon, once a fringe phenomenon, has gone mainstream in recent months despite a wide range of patently outlandish conspiracy theories, including that the world is run by pedophiles trying to damage Donald Trump and that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus.

How is this happening exactly? Because we happened to be talking this week with the famed former professional poker player turned best-selling author Annie Duke — an academic who now teaches about decision theory, including in her upcoming book “How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices” —  we asked for her thoughts about whether and why more people than ever have grown susceptible to conspiracy theories.

She had some interesting things to say that we thought worth sharing. Stay tuned for a longer piece from our conversation about her new book and how it can help both founders and investors.

Our brains don’t like randomness. We as human beings are always trying to figure out this cause and effect that’s just kind of random, yet our brains don’t like; we try to connect dots and create causality where it doesn’t exist.

Belief in conspiracy theories isn’t correlated to intelligence. It’s kind of a different thing that’s going on with how comfortable are you with saying, ‘Shit happens. Sometimes life is random and there’s a lot of luck involved and what are you going to do?’ versus [people who] really want things to make sense and to [maintain] the illusion of control over outcomes.

If you say, ‘These random things can happen like COVID and people are dying and you’re now stuck in your home, it’s hard to think about that as luck expelling itself all over you because that has implications [regarding how much control] you have over your destiny. We’re very deterministic in how we  think . . . so we’re always connecting things together to make it feel like decisions and outcomes and things are much more deterministic than they are.

We’re also natural pattern recognizers, even where patterns don’t exist. It’s so we can partly figure out that, ‘When I went to this part the plains, there were a lot of lions, [so for safety’s sake I shouldn’t go back],’ and so we can recognize faces. It’s [hard] to understand that the world is not as you see it and that we impose things on the world all the time. [Editor’s note: here, Duke points to this visual illusion (below) of two side-by-side cubes that look to be in motion but are not.]

We shouldn’t have so much confidence that we know the truth, but we really believe that the cubes spinning. So [one solution is] don’t have so much confidence that we know the truth, and know that you’re imposing your reality on the world, as opposed to reality imposing itself on you.

Conspiracy theories are not new, in any case, they’ve been going on a long time. The bigger issue now is how easily they are amplified.

One of the heuristics we have to determine whether something is true or not is processing fluency, meaning how easy is it for us to process a message. If we hear something over and over again, it’s increases it’s truthiness, in the words of Stephen Colbert. If you add a picture — so I say giraffes are the only animal that can’t jump, and I include picture of a giraffe — that increases this truthiness.

You can see where that interacts with social media. With theories plus repetition, it’s harder to figure out fact from fiction.

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

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Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

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It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

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Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

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