The upsurge of irrationality: post-truth politics for a polarised world

Angelo Fasce
University of Valencia, Spain |

Received: 13-April-2019 | Accepted: 10-June-2019 | Published Online: 24-November-2019
Disputatio [Dec. 2019], Vol. 9, No. 13, pp. 00-00 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3567160
Article | [EN/SP] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [sp] | Vol. 9 No. 13

How to cite this article:
Fasce, Angelo (2020). «The upsurge of irrationality: post-truth politics for a polarised world / El recrudecimiento de la irracionalidad: políticas de la posverdad para un mundo polarizado». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 9, no. 13: pp. 00–00.

Abstract | Firstly, I summarise the current philosophical and psychological study of post-truth. Secondly, I discuss “white post-truth”, a still unattended form perceived as morally superior by many social actors and scholars. Thirdly, I describe the kind of intergroup struggle that underlies the emergence and spread of these non-standard epistemologies.
Keywords |
Post-Truth · Polarisation · Unwarranted Beliefs · Pseudoscience · Science Denialism · Intergroup Anxiety.

El recrudecimiento de la irracionalidad: políticas de la posverdad para un mundo polarizado

Resumen | En primer lugar, sintetizo el estudio filosófico y psicológico de la posverdad. En segundo lugar, analizo una variante desatendida que denomino “posverdad piadosa”, percibida como moralmente superior por muchos actores sociales y académicos. En tercer lugar, describo el tipo de conflicto intergrupal que subyace a la aparición y difusión de estas epistemologías alternativas.
Palabras Clave | Posverdad · Polarización · Creencias injustificadas · Pseudociencia · Negacionismo de la ciencia · Ansiedad Intergrupal.


Alexander, J. (2006). The Civil Sphere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bækgaard, M., Christensen, J., Dahlmann, C., Mathiasen, A., & Petersen, N. (2017). The Role of Evidence in Politics. Motivated Reasoning and Persuasion among Politicians. British Journal of Political Science, 1-24.

Barberá, P., & Rivero, G. (2015). Understanding the Political Representativeness of Twitter Users. Social Science Computer Review, 33(6), 712-729.

Barkan, R., Ayal, S., & Ariely, D. (2015). Ethical dissonance, justifications, and moral behavior. Current Opinion in Psychology, 6, 157-161.

Barr, A. (2015). 51% of GOP voters: Obama foreign. Retrieved May 29 from:

Bates, E., (2016). Current Controversies within Intimate Partner Violence: Overlooking Bidirectional Violence. Journal of Family Violence, 31(8), 937-940.

Baumgaertner, B., Carlisle, J., & Justwan, F. (2018). The influence of political ideology and trust on willingness to vaccinate. PLoS One, 13(1), e0191728.

Blascovich, J., Mendes, W., & Seery, M.(2003). Intergroup encounters and threat: A multimethod approach. In D. Mackie, & E. Smith (Eds.), From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups. (pp. 89-110). New York: Psychology Press.

Boler, M., & Davis, E. (2018). The affective politics of the “post-truth” era: Feeling rules and networked subjectivity. Emotion, Space and Society27, 75-85.

Brady, W., Wills, J., Jost, J., Tucker, J., Bavel, J. (2017). Moral contagion in social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(28), 7313-7318.

Bryar, R. (2016). Traditional medicines and species extinction: another side to forensic wildlife investigation. Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, 12(2), 125-127.

CAMbrella (2012). CAMbrella Documents and Reports. Retrieved May 29 from:

Cervera, F., Gómez, JM., Frías, F. (2019). Primer informa sobre fallecidos a cause de pseudoterapias en España. Retrieved May 29 from:

Christensen, J. (2018). Do Justification Requirements Reduce Motivated Reasoning in Politicians’ Evaluation of Policy Information? An Experimental Investigation. Retrieved May 29 from:

Cichocka, A., Marchlewska, M., Golec de Zavala, A., & Olechowski, M. (2016). ‘They will not control us’: Ingroup positivity and belief in intergroup conspiracies. British Journal of Psychology, 107(3), 556-576.

Collier, K., Bos, H., & Sandfort, T. (2012). Intergroup contact, attitudes toward homosexuality, and the role of acceptance of gender non-conformity in young adolescents. Journal of adolescence, 35(4), 899-907.

Cook, J., & Lewandowsky, S. (2016). Rational Irrationality: Modeling Climate Change Belief polarisation Using Bayesian Networks. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8(1), 160-179.

Cook, J., Lewandowsky, S., & Ecker, U. (2017). Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their inuence. PloS One, 12, e0175799.

Dhont, K., & Van Hiel, A. (2011). Direct contact and authoritarianism as moderators between extended contact and reduced prejudice: Lower threat and greater trust as mediators. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(2), 223-237.

Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2011). Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50(3), 544-552.

Ernst, E., Lee, M., & Choi, T. (2011). Acupuncture: Does it alleviate pain and are there serious risks? A review of reviews. Pain, 152(4), 755-764.

Faris, R., Roberts, H., Etling, B., Bourassa, N., Zuckerman, E., & Benkler, Y. (2017). Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Berkman Klein Center Research Publication, 6.

Fasce, A. (2018). Divan couches and gurus: the origin and dangers of clinical pseudopsychology. Mètode Science Studies Journal, 8, 165-171.

Fasce, A. (2019). ¿Posverdad escéptica? Los desastres del informe sobre muestra por pseudoterapias de la APETP.  Retrieved May 29 from:

Flynn, D., Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2017). The nature and origins of misperceptions: Understanding false and unsupported beliefs about politics. Political Psychology 38(S1): 127-150.

Forrest B, & Gross P (2004) Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.

Franks, B., Bangerter, A., & Bauer, M. (2013). Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality: an integrated account from cognitive science, social representations theory, and frame theory. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 424.

Gastil, J., Braman, D., Kahan, D., & Slovic, P. (2011). The cultural orientation of mass political opinion. PS: Political Science & Politics, 44(4), 711-714.

Gino, F., Ayal, S., & Ariely, D. (2013). Self-Serving Altruism? The Lure of Unethical Actions that Benefit Others. J Econ Behav Organ, 93, 285-292.

Gorrell, G., Bakir, M., Roberts, I., Greenwood, M., Iavarone, B., & Bontcheva, K. (2019). Partisanship, Propaganda and Post-Truth Politics: Quantifying Impact in Online Debate. Retrieved May 29 from:

Graves, L. (2016). Deciding What’s True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Grebe, E., & Nattrass, N. (2011). AIDS conspiracy beliefs and unsafe sex in Cape Town. AIDS and Behavior, 16(3), 761-773.

Green, D., Palmquist, B. & Schickler, E. (2004). Partisan Hearts and Minds: Political Parties and the Social Identities of Voters. New York: Yale University Press.

Hackett, J. D., Gaffney, A. M., & Data, L. (2018). Intergroup anxiety and political loss: The buffering effects of believing in the open marketplace of ideas and openness to diverse political discussions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 48(3), 150-164.

Hansson, SO. (2018). How connected are the major forms of irrationality? An analysis of pseudoscience, science denial, fact resistance and alternative facts. Mètode Science Studies Journal, 8, 125-131.

Henry, P., & Hardin, C. (2006). The contact hypothesis revisited: Status bias in the reduction of implicit prejudice in the United States and Lebanon. Psychological Science, 17(10), 862-868.

Hersh, E., & Goldenberg, M. (2016). Democratic and Republican physicians provide different care on politicized health issues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(42), 11811-11816.

Hoakobyan, S., & McLaren, J. (2017). NAFTA and the Gender Wage Gap. Upjohn Institute Working Papers, 17-270.

Hochschild, A. (2016). Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: The New Press.

Hoff Sommers, C. (2016). 6 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die. Retrieved May 29 from:

Hornsey, M, Harris, E., Bain, P. & Fielding, K. (2016). Meta-analyses of the determinants and outcomes of belief in climate change. Nature Climate Change,6(6), 622-626.

Imhoff, R., & Bruder, M. (2014). Speaking (un‐) truth to power: Conspiracy mentality as a generalised political attitude. European Journal of Personality, 28(1), 25-43.

Jardina, A., & Traugott, M. (2019). The genesis of the birther rumor: partisanship, racial attitudes, and political knowledge. journal of race. Ethnicity and Politics, 4(1), 60-80.

Jolley, D., & Douglas, K. M. (2013). The social consequences of conspiracism: Exposure to conspiracy theories decreases intentions to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprint. British Journal of Psychology, 105(1), 35-56.

Jolley, D., & Douglas, K. M. (2014). The effects of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on vaccination intentions. PloS one, 9(2), e89177.

Kahan, D. (2013). Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection: An experimental study. Judgment and Decision Making, 8(4), 407-424.

Kahan, D. (2016a). The politically motivated reasoning paradigm, part 1: What politically motivated reasoning is and how to measure it. In R. Scott & S. Kosslyn (Eds), Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences: An interdisciplinary, searchable, and linkable resource, (pp. 1-16). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Kahan, D. (2016b). The politically motivated reasoning paradigm, part 2: Unanswered Questions. In R. Scott & S. Kosslyn (Eds), Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences: An interdisciplinary, searchable, and linkable resource, (pp. 1-16). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Kahan, D. (2017). Misconceptions, Misinformation, and the Logic of Identity-Protective Cognition Cultural Cognition. Project Working Paper Series No. 164. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2973067

Kahan, D., Braman, D., Slovic, P., Gastil, J., & Cohen, G. (2007). The second national risk and culture study: Making sense of-and making progress in-the american culture war of fact. GWU Legal Studies Research Paper, 370, 08-26.

Kahan, D., Jenkins‐Smith, H., & Braman, D. (2010). Cultural cognition of scientific consensus. Journal of risk research, 14(2), 147-174.

Kahan, D., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature climate change, 2(10), 732-735.

Kenworthy, J., Turner, R., Hewstone, M., & Voci, A. (2005). Intergroup contact: When does it work, and why. In J. F. Dovidio, P, Glick, L. A. Budman, (Eds.), On the nature of prejudice: Fifty years after Allport (pp. 278-292). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Kolchinsky, E., Kutschera, U., Hossfeld, U., & Levit, G. (2017). Russia’s new Lysenkoism. Current Biology, 27(19), R1042-R1047.

Kotcher, J., Myers, T., Vraga, E., Stenhouse, N., & Maibach, E. (2017). Does engagement in advocacy hurt the credibility of scientists? results from a randomized national survey experiment. Environmental Communication, 11(3), 1-15.

Kramer, A., Guillory, J., Hancock, T., (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.

Kreiss, D. (2016) Beyond administrative journalism: Civic skepticism and the crisis in journalism. In E. Breese and J. Alexander (Eds.), The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered: Democratic Culture, Professional Codes, Digital Future (p. 59). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kreiss, D. (2017). The fragmenting of the civil sphere: How partisan identity shapes the moral evaluation of candidates and epistemology. American Journal of Cultural Sociology, 5(3), 443-459.

Lawrence, J. (2016). Adult students crying, cocooning and coloring books after election. Retrieved May 29 from: http://www.breitbart. com/big-government/2016/11/14/adult-students-crying-cocooning-coloring-bookselection/.

Leiser, D., Duani, N., & Wagner-Egger, P. (2017). The conspiratorial style in lay economic thinking. PloS one, 12(3), e0171238.

Leone, L., Giacomantonio, M., & Lauriola, M. (2017). Moral foundations, worldviews, moral absolutism and belief in conspiracy theories. International Journal of Psychology, 54(2), 197-204.

Lewandowsky, S., & Oberauer, K. (2016). Motivated Rejection of Science. Current Direction in Psychological Science, 25(4), 217-222.

Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U., & Cook, J. (2017). Beyond misinformation: Understanding and coping with the “post-truth” era. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition6(4), 353-369.

Lewandowsky, S., Gignac, G. E., & Oberauer, K. (2013). The role of conspiracist ideation and worldviews in predicting rejection of science. PloS One, 8(10), e75637.

Lewandowsky, S., Gignac, G., & Vaughan, S. (2013). The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science. Nature Climate Change, 3, 399-404.

Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., & Gignac, G. E. (2013). NASA faked the moon landing—therefore,(climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychological science, 24(5), 622-633.

Lewandowsky, S., Pilditch, T., Madsen, J., Oreskes, N., & Risbey, J. (2019). Influence and seepage: An evidence-resistant minority can affect public opinion and scientific belief formation. Cognition, 188, 124-139.

Lilienfeld, S., Lynn, S., & Lohr, J. (2003). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology. New York: The Guilford Press.

Lippa, R. (2005). Gender, Nature, and Nurture. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. London: Bloomsbury Press.

Martín, A. (2019). La lucha contra las pseudoterapias mete la pata con un informe lleno de cifras exageradas. Retrieved May 29 from:

McIntyre, L. (2018). Post-truth. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Novella, S. (2012). Pseudoscience in Our Universities. Skeptical Inquirer, 36(3).

Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2015). Does correcting myths about the flu vaccine work? An experimental evaluation of the effects of corrective information. Vaccine, 33(3), 459-464.

OED (2019a). Truthiness. In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved May 29 from:

OED (2019b). Post-truth. In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved May 29 from:

Oliver, J. E., & Wood, T. (2014). Medical conspiracy theories and health behaviors in the United States. JAMA internal medicine, 174(5), 817-818.

Oreskes, N., & Conway, E. (2010). Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Palm, R., Lewis, G., & Feng, B. (2017). What causes people to change their opinion about climate change?. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107(4), 883-896.

Paludi, M., & Haley, S. (2014). Scientific Racism. In T. Thomas (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology (pp. 1697-1700). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: what the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin.

Pasek, J., Stark, T. H., Krosnick, J. A., & Tompson, T. (2015). What motivates a conspiracy theory? Birther beliefs, partisanship, liberal-conservative ideology, and anti-Black attitudes. Electoral Studies, 40, 482-489.

Paul, D. (2003). Darwin, social Darwinism and eugenics. In J. Hodge and G. Radick (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pettigrew, T. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual review of psychology, 49(1), 65-85.

Pettigrew, T., & Tropp, L. (2008). How does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Meta‐analytic tests of three mediators. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38(6), 922-934.

Pew Research Center (2017). 2016 Election: The latest facts, figures and public opinion shaping the 2016 presidential election. Retrieved May 29 from: election/.

Poeppl, T., Langguth, B., Rupprecht, R., Safron, A., Bzdok, D., Laird, A., & Eickhoff, S. (2016). The neural basis of sex differences in sexual behavior: A quantitative meta-analysis. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 43, 28-43.

Pomerantsev, P., & Weiss, M. (2014). The menace of unreality: How the Kremlin weaponizes information, culture and money. Retrieved May 29 from:

Posadzki, P., Watson, L., & Ernst, E. (2013). Adverse effects of herbal medicines: an overview of systematic reviews. Clinical Medicine, 13(1), 7-12.

Rectenwald, M. (2018). “Social Justice” and Its Postmodern Parentage. Academic Questions, 31(2), 130-139.

Sapountzis, A., & Condor, S. (2013). Conspiracy accounts as intergroup theories: challenging dominant understandings of social power and political legitimacy. Political Psychology, 34(5), 731-752.

Schudson, M. & Anderson, C. (2009). Objectivity, professionalism, and truth seeking in journalism. In K. Wahl-Jorgensen and T. Hanitzsch (Eds.), The Handbook of Journalism Studies (pp. 88-101). New York: Routledge.

Sloman, D., & Fernbach, P. (2017). The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. New York: Riverhead.

Sokal, A. (2006). Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antoginists or fellow-travellers?. In G. Fagan (Ed.), Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public (pp. 286-361). New York: Routledge.

Stephan, W. (2014). Intergroup anxiety: Theory, research, and practice. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 18(3), 239-255.

Stephan, W. G., & Stephan, C. W. (2017). Intergroup threat theory. In Y. Kim (Ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication, (pp. 1-12). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Storbeck, J., & Clore, G. L. (2007). On the interdependence of cognition and emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 21(6), 1212-1237.

Suhay, E., & Garretson, J. (2018). Science, Sexuality, and Civil Rights: Does Information on the Causes of Sexual Orientation Change Attitudes?. The Journal of Politics, 80(2), 692-696.

Swami, V., Chamorro‐Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2010). Unanswered questions: A preliminary investigation of personality and individual difference predictors of 9/11 conspiracist beliefs. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(6), 749-761.

Tappin, B., van der Leer, L., & McKay, R. (2017). The heart trumps the head: Desirability bias in political belief revision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(8), 1143-1149.

Tsang, J. (2002). Moral rationalization and the integration of situational factors and psychological processes in immoral behavior. Review of General Psychology, 6(1), 25-50.

Turner, R., Hewstone, M., & Voci, A. (2007). Reducing explicit and implicit outgroup prejudice via direct and extended contact: The mediating role of self-disclosure and intergroup anxiety. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(3), 369-388.

Van der Linden, S. (2015). The conspiracy-effect: Exposure to conspiracy theories (about global warming) decreases pro-social behavior and science acceptance. Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 171-173.

van der Linden, S., Leiserowitz, A., Feinberg, G., & Maibach, E. (2015). The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence. PLoS ONE, 10(2), e0118489.

van Prooijen, J. (2015). Sometimes inclusion breeds suspicion: Self‐uncertainty and belongingness predict belief in conspiracy theories. European Journal of Social Psychology, 46(3), 267-279.

van Prooijen, J., Krouwel, A. P., & Pollet, T. (2015). Political Extremism Predicts Belief in Conspiracy Theories. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(5), 570-578.

Vescio, T., Sechrist, G., & Paolucci, M. (2003). Perspective taking and prejudice reduction: The mediational role of empathy arousal and situational attributions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33(4), 455-472.

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380).

Walton, G., & Hepworth, M. (2011). A longitudinal study of changes in learners’ cognitive states during and following an information literacy teaching intervention. Journal of Documentation, 67, 449-479.

Wood, M. (2016). Some Dare Call It Conspiracy: Labeling Something a Conspiracy Theory Does Not Reduce Belief in It. Political Psychology, 37(5), 695-705.

© The author(s) 2020. This work, published by Disputatio [], is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [BY–NC–ND]. The copy, distribution and public communication of this work will be according to the copyright notice. For inquiries and permissions, please email: