Is it the case that having religious beliefs makes you believe in paranormal events heard about on television and society? According to Hergovich and colleagues, the answer is yes. But, there are a lot of conditions that make a difference. For instance, only people that reported strong belief in traditional or older styles of religious belief were strongly related to high degrees of paranormal belief.
When looking more closely, the style of a person’s religious belief made a difference. People who were religious for spiritual reasons tended to have higher scores in paranormal belief. Paranormal belief was unaffected with people who were religious for the benefits they received. Also, being Catholic or Protestant showed slightly different degrees of relationship to having paranormal beliefs.
In closing, it is worth noting that the relationships in this study of religion to paranormal belief were rather small. In many instances, a person’s religious belief influenced paranormal belief scores by less than 5%. The exception were people who scored highly on the traditional religious belief measure within the paranormal belief scale. These individuals beliefs were strongly associated with paranormal beliefs. In some cases, traditional religious belief influenced paranormal belief scores by 36%!
Long story short, being religious influences your belief in the paranormal; but not necessarily by very much.
Submitted By: Brian Laythe
Hergovich, A., Schott, R. Arendasy, M. (2005) Paranormal belief and religiosity. The Journal of Parapsychology, 69, 293-303.
A recent study in Finland looked at how people see the role of the brain, the mind, and the soul in death. Do people believe in an immortal soul? Do those that hold a firm religious belief differ in their belief about the soul compared to those that also believe in the paranormal?
Out of the five hundred and fifty-two volunteers, seventy percent believed in God. They were asked questions in reference to their belief about the mind, body, and soul in regards to their religious and paranormal beliefs. Another set of questions asked “The soul continues to exist though the body may die”, other questions included beliefs on witchcraft, superstition and religion/spirituality.
Results showed that most people do believe that the soul is immortal and does not die when the body dies. It was also found that some people believe that the brain is more important than the mind. It was also discovered that the volunteers that had spiritual/religious beliefs along with paranormal beliefs felt more strongly about the continuation of an immortal soul. Many people believe that even in death that a person can still feel emotions, desires and continue to see, think and feel.
Submitted by: Bridget Cotton
Lindeman, M. Riekki, T, and Svedholm-Hakkinen, A (2015). Individual Differences in Conceptions of Soul, Mind, and Brain. Journal of Individual Differences, 36(3):157–162.
Michael Persinger, a famous neuroscientist in paranormal circles, has spent decades studying electromagnetic fields and their effects on humans in the laboratory. In this study, their goal was to determine if magnetic fields could produce false memories in humans. After attempting to induce hypnosis with forty-eight subjects, people were given a narrative to listen to. Some people were subjected to weak magnetic fields during this period, and others were left alone.
People were brought back a week later to be tested for memory recall. Persinger found that individuals who were subjected to magnetic fields produced three times more false memories about the story they listened to compared to the group that did not receive a magnetic field treatment. However, the group that did not receive magnetic fields also produced some false memories.
In the closing of the article, Persinger states that function of the temporal lobes of the brain was related to false memory production when treated with electromagnetic waves. He also found that false memories were more likely from this group when remembering the end of the narrative, but less likely during the beginning of the recalled narrative.
Just to be safe, don’t study near power lines.
Submitted By: Brian Laythe
Healey, F., & Persinger, M. A. (2001). Experimental production of illusory (false) memories in reconstructions of narratives: Effect size and potential mediation by right hemispheric stimulation from complex, weak magnetic fields. International Journal of Neuroscience,106, 195-207.
It’s not commonly known, but parapsychology receives a lot of criticism from mainstream science. Although most of this criticism is often unfounded, parapsychology has taken its reputation of scientific accuracy very seriously. Baptista and Derakhshani do just that. One of the common criticisms of ESP research is what is called the “file drawer effect”. Essentially this claim is that non-significant ESP studies never get published, thus, the studies available on ESP are cherry picked. Baptista and Derakhshani show that unpublished studies in ESP canceling out published studies is very very unlikely.
Other criticisms involve the mathematical power used in studies of ESP. These researchers show that the mathematical power of ESP studies are actually higher than those used in many mainstream scientific fields. Baptista and Derakhshani also show that declines in ESP findings are being replaced with more recent studies showing consistent ESP effects.
What should you the reader conclude about ESP and parapsychology? Every science has its weaknesses, and parapsychology is no exception. However, critics and skeptics time and time again have failed to invalidate the findings of this controversial science. Parapsychology, as an underdog, has taken great lengths to use scientific methods that are often more stringent than mainstream science. Unfortunately, unpopular in science sometimes means unfair criticism in science. Beliefs can influence the most reasonable of people. Scientists are no exception.
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
Baptista, J., & Derakhshani, M (2014). Beyond the coin toss: Examining Wiseman’s criticisms of parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 56-79.
Paranormal belief has been measured in many ways. One of the downsides of this process is that psychologists and parapsychologists have not yet discovered a clean way to separate different types of supernatural beliefs. Lindeman and Aarnio attempt to provide some direction to how to statistically divide paranormal belief into four components: Belief in spiritual entities, magic, and psychic powers, Belief in omens and rituals to bring luck, belief in astrology fung-shui, and the moon, and belief in magical powers of food and health. The remaining question is how do cognitive and personality factors relate to these groupings of paranormal belief?
Lindeman and Aarnio looked at thinking styles, parent and peer influence, need for control and other background factors to see if any of these personality tendencies related or predicted their breakdown of paranormal belief. The results of their study do show that all of the above relate to their four factors, but very weakly (< 5% influence on paranormal belief factors in the majority of cases).
The take-home message from this research is that various types of paranormal belief are more related to each other than they are to personality and background factors in this study. Thus, you the reader are left with the knowledge that belief in one type of paranormal belief tends to predict belief in other types of paranormal phenomena, but we are all still left in the dark as to why we believe in things that go bump in the night.
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
Lindeman, M., & Aarnio, K. (2006). Paranormal beliefs: Their dimensionality and correlates. European Journal of Personality, 20, 585-602.
MacDonald in the nineties proposed that many scientists may be overlooking the source of people’s paranormal experiences. Many sociologists have assumed that people who report paranormal experience have been influenced by society. This translates to a belief by sociologists that paranormal experiences are unconsciously influenced by friends, family, and culture. MacDonald disagrees.
Citing the experiential source hypothesis, MacDonald claims that there is evidence to support that there are real base events that people interpret as paranormal. MacDonald further claims that culture (i.e., friends, families, beliefs) are not sufficient to explain the core features of paranormal experiences that people report.
Later research has confirmed MacDonald’s claims, but in this case, we see one of the first arguments against labeling people as suggestible or somehow mentally unfit if they report a paranormal experience. Research continues, but the question for the reader is; do you think that unusual experiences are purely the result of a suggestible mind?
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
MacDonald, W. I. (1995). The effects of religiosity and structural strain on reported paranormal experiences. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34, 366-376.