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.