Executive Summary

The Covid-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 brought to public attention the
commonalities between violent extremists and Covid deniers and conspiracists.

Extremist groups across the political spectrum embraced a variety of conspiracy theories
on the Covid-19 pandemic, and far-right movements assumed the forefront of the
spreading of Covid-19-related conspiracies. This convergence of violent extremists and
conspiracists has been explored from a variety of approaches and methodologies across
disciplines. This paper particularly focuses on the dimension of narrativity and explores
the psychological grounds on which these groups stand. Drawing on the latest research on
social psychology, behavioural science, and cognitive science, the reasons behind the relatively
easy distribution of these narratives are explained. Four major contributing factors
are addressed: uncertainty and the need for cognitive closure (NFCC), certitude, attitude
extremity and polarisation, and narrativity. It is argued that narratives of conspiracism and
violent extremism resonate with intuitive and fast thinking patterns by providing simple
explanations and models in response to complex and multifaceted questions. Their narratives
communicate effectively with hard-wired, often automated, intuitive patterns of
thinking inherent to the human cognitive system. In contrast, scientific and critical thinking
requires analytical skills, the ability to process complexity, and openness to ambiguity,
all involving effort, training, and education. Thus, belief in narratives of conspiracism and
violent extremism requires less effort than scientific explanations and evidence-based
enquiries. Belief in science is like running uphill; it requires us to spend enormous mental
resources to overcome our inherited thinking patterns and cognitive processes.