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An anti-vaxx scientist said 'mass formation psychosis' caused people to follow Covid-19 measures

Business Insider US
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  • A scientist coined the phrase "mass formation psychosis" on a podcast with Joe Rogan. 
  • Dr. Robert Malone said millions of people were "hypnotized" to believe established Covid-19 facts.
  • Psychology experts told the Associated Press there's no merit to Malone's claims. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

A scientist promoting anti-vaccine conspiracies attributed cooperation with Covid-19 measures like vaccination and mask-wearing with "mass formation psychosis" during a December 31 Joe Rogan Experience podcast. 

In the segment, Dr. Robert Malone, who once researched mRNA technology but is critical of the Covid-19 vaccines developed with that technology, said mass psychosis has caused a "third of the population basically being hypnotised" to believe established facts about Covid-19. 

The segment has since been taken down by YouTube. Twitter has also shut down Malone's account for spreading vaccine falsehoods.

However, GOP Rep. Troy Nehls entered a full transcript of the podcast into the congressional record. 

Malone said this "psychosis" is why people follow public health advice from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci or choose to become vaccinated. 

"When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has free-floating anxiety in a sense that things don't make sense, we can't understand it, and then their attention gets focused by a leader or a series of events on one small point, just like hypnosis, they literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere," Malone said, adding that this concept also occurred in Nazi Germany. 

However, psychology experts told the Associated Press there's no actual support for Malone's claims. The term "mass formation psychosis" does not even show up in the American Psychological Association's Dictionary of Psychology.

"To my knowledge, there's no evidence whatsoever for this concept," Jay Van Bavel, an assistant professor of psychology and neural science at New York University told the AP. 

Stephen Reicher, a social psychology professor at the University of St. Andrews in the UK told the AP that the concept has "no academic credibility."

Also in the UK, John Drury, a social psychologist at the University of Sussex told the AP the idea of "mass formation psychosis" is similar to "mob mentality" or the idea that people in a group will lose self-control and their identities – concepts he said have been discredited by decades of research. 

"No respectable psychologist agrees with these ideas now," Drury said.

PolitiFact reported Malone previously said he'd received two doses of Moderna's vaccine but claimed the jabs prolonged symptoms he got from a previous Covid-19 infection.  

Experts, however, are concerned with Malone's anti-vax claims. While several public figures including elected officials like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have spread Covid-19 misinformation, experts told PolitiFact they're more worried because Malone is a scientist. 

"He's a legitimate scientist, or at least was until he started to make these false claims," Dr. Paul Offit, chair of vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine told PolitiFact.

Insider was unable to reach Malone for comment. 


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