Whence pseudoscience? An epidemiological approach


In this paper, we develop an epidemiological approach to account for the typical features and persistent popularity of pseudoscience. An epidemiology of pseudoscience aims at explaining why some beliefs become widely distributed whereas others do not and hence seeks to identify the factors that exert a causal effect on this distribution. We pinpoint and discuss several factors that promote the dissemination of pseudoscientific beliefs. In particular, we argue that such beliefs manage to spread widely because they are intuitively appealing, manage to hitchhike on the authority of science, and successfully immunize themselves from criticism.


pseudoscience; epidemiology of representations; human cognition; epistemic vigilance; science mimicry

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