07/20/2014 11:28 am ET Updated Sep 10, 2014

Nearly Half Of Americans Believe In At Least One Medical Conspiracy Theory, According To New Report

In a recent national survey sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers found that almost 50 percent of Americans believed in at least one medical conspiracy.

Eric Oliver, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of the study, joined HuffPost Live to report on his findings.

After presenting participants with a variety of conspiracy theories, Oliver asked if they had heard of them -- and if they believed them to be true.

"The most common [conspiracy theory] was the idea that the Food and Drug Administration was deliberately withholding natural cures for cancer because of secret pressure from pharmaceutical companies," Oliver told HuffPost Live's Nancy Redd. "They ranged from that to the idea that water chlorination is a byproduct of phosphate mining to the idea that HIV was deliberately introduced to the African American community by the CIA."

Why do so many people believe these theories? Will Storr, author of "The Unpersuadables," explained that it's simply part of human nature: "As humans we are irrational creatures, we are emotional creatures. We don't believe what we're told is true; we believe what we feel to be true. And that's why a lot of these conspiracy theories feel really true to a lot of people."

Given general distrust of government and historical instances of abuse on the part of the medical establishment, some would say that any skepticism is earned.

Nancy Gahles, a chiropractor and homeopath, noted that it's important to stay alert and do your own research, even if it's discouraged by those with a stake in preserving the status quo.

"That's where consumer groups come in," she said. "These are where different support groups come in to be watchdogs -- and to help us tease through the information."

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