All posts by Research Assistants

Exorcism? Only If You Ask Nicely

Many religions still hold that exorcisms are effective in freeing their congregation from evil spirits and the devil. Many of these religious followers are willing to undergo an exorcism to rid themselves of horrible thoughts and actions.  But what happens when a congregation forces an exorcism against a member’s will? Is it the congregation’s right to do everything in its power to free a member from their possessor, even if they do not have that member’s consent? In the court case Pleasant Glade Assembly of God v. Schubert (2008), one teenage girl developed PTSD after two forced exorcisms.  The jurors believed that the church had trumped their religious freedom on the basis that someone was injured.  However, the judge disagreed and overturned the verdict, dismissing the case.

The judge cited the Free Exercise Clause, which states that no law shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. However, there have been exceptions made in cases of mental and physical injury, as seen in Pleasant Glade Assembly of God v. Schubert (2008). Many people were hoping the original verdict would set a precedent that churches could not use their religious freedom to openly abuse, consent, or harm someone in the name of religion, such as in a forced exorcism.

However, the judge argued that the victim had consented to the church’s practices by attending the church on her own free will.  Therefore, she had also consented to an exorcism, despite voicing her dissent. In addition, if the judge were to charge and condemn the church for their belief in exorcism, it could have been interpreted as a criticism of their religion.  That was a fight the court did not want to pursue. Despite the fact that the victim did not consent, the Texas judge ruled that is was within the church’s religious freedom to carry out practices that were important to them. Do you think the judge had a point, or do you believe that consent, no matter the circumstances, should precede an exorcism?


Submitted by: Bridget Cotton


Koploy, C.(2010). Free exorcise clause? Whether exorcism can survive the Supreme Court’s “Smith Neutrality.” Northwestern University Law Review, 104, 363-389.



Is a Belief in the Paranormal a Diagnosis of a Mental Disorder?

spotlightDo you believe in the paranormal? Are you depressed or suffer from other psychological issues? According to an article by Simon Dein, the prevalence of psychological issues and paranormal belief may be linked. Such as, people who heavily believe in the paranormal are more likely to display Schizophrenic symptoms. This makes sense, as some of the ways doctors diagnose schizophrenia is by asking about hearing voices, thought sharing, or other types of phenomenon that can be seen as telepathic.

people-845710_960_720People who were diagnosed with manic-depression or manic-depressive episodes had a high Idolization of magic and the paranormal. However, other studies showed that half of the participants had insignificantly low psychological behaviors, but greatly believed in the paranormal, and the other half of paranormal believers had high scores of psychological issues. This means that just because you believe in the paranormal does not necessarily mean you have or will develop a psychological disorder.



In conclusion, there is no direct link found as of yet between psychological issues and paranormal beliefs. However, the correlation definitely exists and a sudden interest in the paranormal can be an early and important indicator that someone may need psychological help.





Summited by: Ryan Malone


International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31 (1). Retrieved from

Make Campfires Cool Again


hands-984032_1920Ever wondered why campfire stories were never for rational thinkers? It’s because rational thinkers are less likely to believe in the paranormal. That’s not to say the experiential thinkers are ignorant for believing. They are just more likely to think with their emotions. Stress is one of those emotions that may lead to less rational thinking and more experimental thinking according to researcher Nicola Lasikiewicz. This may correlate to highly emotional and stressful life experiences leading to a higher belief in the paranormal.

tree-66465Nicola Lasikiewicz surveyed 82 men and women between the ages of 18 and 62 by measuring their own perceived stress, assessing their thinking style, and assessing their currently held beliefs in the paranormal (or lack thereof). People who had received more education were likely to be rational thinkers and there were also more likely to believe in witchcraft and extraordinary life forms. However, once Perceived Stress Levels rose one was more likely to believe in all paranormal and superstitious realms, and these individuals were more likely to be experiential thinkers.

woman-363144__180What’s interesting about this study is the rational thinkers with high stress- they had particularly strong beliefs in the paranormal. In conclusion, our tip is, the next time you want to get together and have a great night with friends exchanging ghost stories, make sure you invite the most stressed ones to the affair.


Submitted by: Ryan Malone


Lasikiewicz, N. (2016). Perceived Stress, Thinking Style, and Paranormal Belief. Imagination, Cognition &Personality, 35, 306-320.

Are you a Seeker or a Provider of the Afterlife?

my-1581429__180If you haven’t noticed less people are attending church on a regular basis. Less than 50% of Americans have great confidence in organized religion. However, people are not shedding their belief system, they are merely expanding it. More and more people are picking and choosing what they like and do not like from multiple religions to build their own spiritual belief system. Performing and participating in paranormal investigations is part of that process for finding a spiritual belief system for many people.

cemetery-1670231_1280According to the author, most people investigating the paranormal are not satisfied with what religion tells them about the afterlife and they want more tangible proof. Performing paranormal investigations has the end goal of connecting to a “spiritual world” outside of our own. The author interviewed paranormal investigators to find out their experiences and why they wanted to contact the paranormal world. The author had four groups: the people who dabble in multiple religions, “spiritual but not religious”, atheists and agnostics, and investigators that were part of organized religion.

stocksnap_8pws9yv4cuAfter interviewing and gathering why the investigators were so intent on connecting to the paranormal, the author found that those who were skeptical about an afterlife were seeking the spiritual world for evidence and those who already believed in an afterlife wanted to provide answers to the dead and the living about the afterlife. However, no matter why they are trying to connect with the paranormal- they are all connecting with each other.


Submitted by: Ryan Malone


Eaton, M. A. (2015). “Give us a Sign of Your Presence”: Paranormal Investigation as a Spiritual Practice. Sociology Of Religion, 76, 389-412.



alien-contact-2Alien abductions accounts are everywhere, and many people believe them to be false. But, then, how are we to explain away so many similar experiences with the little green men? One such way is sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is a relatively common ailment that occurs in up to 40% of people. Sometimes people are consciously aware during these episodes and they may have hallucinations, feelings of floating, and feelings of intrusion. Many alien abductions are reported to have happened while the person was sleeping.  Many scientists and doctors have been trying to discover a link between sleep paralysis and alien abductions. Many alien abductees go to specialists that can help them deal with their experience. These specialists have been criticized because of their use of hypnosis, which can create false memories. Many of the abductees have been accused of creating strongly believed false memories ‘implanted’ by the specialist, whether on purpose or not.

cambodia-1600376_960_720Another theory in disproving Alien Abductions is the movement of tectonic plates and the Geo-Magnetic field changes that result. Tectonic plates moving can also generate strong electromagnetic fields. Electronic pulses can affect the brain’s temporal lobes. This stress and over activity in the temporal lobe is often followed by seeing shadowy figures and lapses of time which is often referenced by alien abductees. However, this theory has not been fully tested with abductees.

city-35002In conclusion, there are multiple theories as to what causes people to believe they were abducted by aliens. For now, no clear answer is given and more research must be done for a definite answer.




Submitted by: Ryan Malone

Holden, K.J., & French, C.C. (2002). Alien abduction experiences: Some clues from neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 7(3), 163-178.

Extraversion and The Sun Sign

downloadJ. F. van Rooij, M. A. Brak, and J.F Commandeur (1988) examined the relationship between the Astrological Sun Sign and extraversion by replicating a study done in 1978 by Mayo, White, and Eysenck. A great amount of research has attempted to replicate a previous study to try and get similar findings. A previous study found that individuals whose zodiac signs were Aries, Gemini, Leo, Sagittarius, and Aquarius were more prone to be extroverted. The Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces signs tend to be more introverted. 


xzodiacsigndateszodiacmeanings-jpg-pagespeed-ic-yrihssiogvThese researchers decided to continue the research around relationships between the Sun Sign and extraversion. The current study examined previous data that had been collected over a 5 year period, that was not originally focused around astrology. Thus, people could not provide answers based in astrology, tainting the results.


flyer-4Three factors were tested for higher rates of extraversion in the study. These factors were gender differences, odd and even zodiac signs and the astrological sun sign. Researchers found that there were no gender differences nor did the zodiac positions in regards to the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Venus had any effect on levels of extraversion.


Do you fall in the realm of extraversion and introversion, based on your zodiac sign and sun sign position? This research suggests not.

Submitted by: Jossalyn DeLeon

van Roou, J. J., Brak, M. A., & Commandeur, J. J. (1988). Introversion-Extraversion and Sun-Sign. Journal Of Psychology, 122(3), 275.

How Does Meditation Influence Creativity?


imagesThere have been quite a few studies conducted that have linked meditation and creativity. It has been suggested meditation heightens creativity. Meditation impacts how we manage our attention. The current study aims to explore how the various aspects of meditation style affect creativity and attention.




stones-840175__180The two meditation styles used in this study are mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation. In mindfulness meditation practitioners are instructed to be mindful of their environment, their breath, and their emotions. Those practicing in this form of meditation are given more freedom with their thoughts than those who are practicing concentrative meditation. Those who are engaging in concentrative meditation are instructed to concentrate on one thing, and they are instructed to not deter from that.

wikileaks-confirms-etIt was found that participants were more creative after the meditation session, with an average of two more ideas after meditation. However, the results showed that participants in the concentrative meditation group scored higher in cognitive flexibility. This is the ability to overcome fixed thought patterns. This is thought to be a key element in creativity. There was no significant difference between pre and post-meditation for the mindfulness meditation group in terms of cognitive flexibility.


Submitted by: Autumn Hockenbury


Gerasimova, A., Muller, B., & Ritter, S. M. (2016) Concentrative meditation influences creativity by increasing cognitive flexibility. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 10, 278-286.

What Components of Personality Correlate to Belief in the Paranormal?


pexels-photo-38990There is much literature to support the statement that there are two tendencies, openness to experience and sensation seeking, that are predictors of belief in the paranormal. However,  the exact relationship between the three is unclear. The current aims to pinpoint how they relate. To accomplish that both openness to experience and sensation seeking are broken down into measurable subcategories. A measurement packet was crafted. The packet contained Zuckerman’s Sensation Seeking Scale, the Analogous Experience Inventory, a socio-demographic sheet, and the NEO-PI-R which not only measures the five major personality domains but also looks at six facets of each domain. 



spookyroomThe results supported that both openness to experience and sensation seeking related with the belief in Paranormal Phenomena. The results also confirmed that openness to experience relates more strongly to the belief in Paranormal Phenomena than Sensation Seeking. All facets of openness to experience correlated but fantasy, actions, and values were the strongest predictors. Sensation Seeking was broken down into four categories; Thrill and Adventure Seeking, Experience Seeking, Disinhibition Seeking, and Boredom Susceptibility. The only Sensation seeking subscale that did not positively correlate with paranormal belief was Thrill and Adventure Seeking.



Submitted by: Autumn Hockenbury


Johnson, J. L., Hathaway, W., Smith, C. L. (2009) Personality contributions to belief in paranormal phenomena. Individual Differences Research,  7, 85-96.

Aliens: Paranormal?

alien-contact-2Viren Swami et al. (2010) examined belief in extraterrestrials. There is debate on whether beliefs in extraterrestrial life, such as aliens, were related to the measurement of paranormal belief. Their study hypothesized that there would be common themes and relations between extraterrestrial beliefs and multiples factors, such as age, mental illness, paranormal belief, superstition, and conscientiousness.

wikileaks-confirms-etThe study used an 11-item extraterrestrial belief subscale and an 18-item paranormal belief scale that measured whether the participants had these beliefs. Findings of the study suggested that paranormal belief, more so than ESP and belief in the afterlife, were related to belief in extraterrestrial life.

detect-extraterrestrial-lifeThese researchers also found a relationship between participants beliefs in extraterrestrial life and mental illness. More specifically, they stated that with higher extraterrestrial life beliefs, subjects report having more unusual experiences than others. An obvious finding in the study stated that openness to new experiences also relates to extraterrestrial life belief and experiences. An open minded individual could be more prone to believe that an experience could be an extraterrestrial experience.



Submitted by: Jossalyn DeLeon

Swami, V., Pietschnig, J., Stieger, S., & Voracek, M. (2011). Alien psychology: Associations between extraterrestrial beliefs and paranormal ideation, superstitious beliefs, schizotypy, and the Big Five personality factors. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(4), 647-653. doi:10.1002/acp.1736

Near Death Experiences Effects on Spiritual Well Being

download-1Does the occurrence of near death experiences increase your religious beliefs or spirituality? Khanna et. al. states that it does play a role in your spiritual well-being. Multiple previous studies have reported that they have seen a great amount of people who before their NDE having little to no belief in religion or spirituality, and dramatically increase their spirituality after the incidence.

download-2It is reported by NDE individuals that they have gained a new meaning for life, loss of fear of death, and a greater love for people, the environment, and life overall. As these studies have looked at the relationship between the growth in beliefs and near death experiences, Khanna and colleagues looked at the spiritual well-being, specifically.

imagesIn the current study, NDE’s were measured, as well as spiritual well-being. The depth of these experiences and the depth of increase in well-being were also examined. Results found that the individuals who had reported having a near-death experience tended to have a greater gain in their spiritual well being.  It is suggested that regardless of religious orientation before the NDE, these NDE’s could potentially be a spiritual intervention for the individuals.



Submitted by: Jossalyn DeLeon

Khanna, S., & Greyson, B. (2014). Near-Death Experiences and Spiritual Well-Being. Journal Of Religion & Health, 53, 1605-1615.