Carlos Alvarado, a very dedicated and published parapsychologist, reports on the rare phenomena out-of-body experiences (OBEs). OBE’s are when a person finds themselves outside of their bodies, often looking down on themselves. Alvarado in this article focuses on the rare instances when OBE’s occur while people are physically active and reports four new cases. Some interesting trends are shown.
When people are active, OBE’s are relatively rare. Alvarado examines twenty two cases of physically active OBEs. Results show that women are slightly more prone to an active OBE (27.3% versus 22.7% for men). In terms of what these people were doing when they had the OBE, the majority were talking , or driving a vehicle (Yikes). In all of these cases, people who experienced OBEs watched themselves as they continued their various activities!
Alvarado concludes that OBE’s have often been researched alongside near death experiences (NDE). As a result, not as much research has been conducted on physically active OBE. The experience of either NDE or OBE is still debated by science as to whether or not these experiences are generated by the brain, or representative of a paranormal experience. Although associated with a psychological tendency to detach the waking self from the body (Dissociation), in depth brain studies to date, have not been conducted.
Submitted by: Brian Laythe
Alvarado, C. S. (2016). Out of body experiences during physical activity: Report of four new cases. Journal for the Society for Psychical Research, 80, 1-12.
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.
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.
Tom Rice conducted a study in 2003 to determine if there is a difference in who believes in the paranormal based on their age, gender, race, educational levels, religious beliefs, and income levels. Rice found that when it came to age, younger people tend to believe more than the older people in heaven and hell, ghosts, and are more likely to be superstitious. Older people seem to believe more in ESP, and prayer to heal an illness.
Women were more likely to believe in most classic supernatural phenomena. Race and income levels are largely unrelated to belief in the phenomena. Better-educated people are actually more likely to believe in most of the phenomena such as ESP, psychic healing and are more likely to say they can heal their bodies with their mind. Less educated are more likely to believe in traditional religious supernatural events. Whites are more likely to believe in psychic healing and UFOs, and other supernatural phenomena. Those with lower income levels tend to be more superstitious and believe in astrology.
In conclusion, everyone has their own belief systems, and although we can say that there seems to be a difference in age, gender, race, educational levels, religious beliefs, and income levels as far as believing in paranormal phenomena, it truly falls into a person’s own belief. There is no right or wrong, it’s just how a person feels inside themselves in whether they are believers or skeptics.
Submitted by: Bridget Cotton
Rice, T. W. (2003) Believe it or not: Religious and other paranormal beliefs in the United States. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42, 95-106.
Paranormal Experience or Reality Impaired?
Harvey Irwin, an Australian psychologist, has been studying belief in the paranormal for many years. One of his many research studies examines how belief in the paranormal predicts to a tendency to imagine physical sensations or other senses. Irwin’s results show that various types of paranormal belief contribute as much as 36% towards this imagination tendency.
On examination, people with belief in witchcraft have the highest relationship to imaginary sensation, followed by traditional paranormal beliefs and new age philosophy. Beliefs that only predicted about 10% of this imagination tendency were superstition, belief in aliens, and religious belief.
Do these findings mean that all people who have paranormal happenings imagined their experience? Not necessarily. Irwin goes on to explain that people who have a deficit in reality testing (imaginary tendencies) may have an experience and leap to the conclusion that the experience was paranormal. He also states that people with paranormal beliefs represent a wide and different body of people. Thus, his findings may not apply to everyone. Irwin concludes that critical thinking and reasoning should be used to analyze any type of paranormal event.
Irwin, J. (2004). Reality testing and the formation of paranormal beliefs: A Constructive replication. Journal for the Society of Psychical Research, 68, 143-152.
Contributed By: Brian Laythe