Religious Differences and Paranormal Beliefs

In 1996, Haraldsson, and Houtkooper conducted a test to determine how valid Tobacyk’s Paranormal Belief Scale was when testing different Christian cultures (ex: Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, etc.) For that testing, the researchers asked college students from Iceland questions and compared those answers to students from Louisiana in the United States. One of the reasons the researchers looked at Iceland was largely due to an earlier study performed by the same researchers (Haraldsson, and Houtkooper, 1991) which reported that Icelandic people have reported more contact with the dead than any of fourteen other countries. Icelandic people also reported a higher belief in life after death (76%) in the same research. Icelandic people reported that only 2% of the population regularly attend church, compared to 43% in The United States.

Tobacyk’s Paranormal Belief Scale for the Icelandic students had to have some questions rephrased and placed into a different subscale. The question about “the soul continues to exist though the body may die”, was re-categorized from Traditional Religious Belief into Spiritualism. In Iceland, life after death has become more associated with Spiritualism rather than Religious Beliefs. A second change in questions was related to the subscale of Psi-Belief, “Mind reading is not possible”, and it was moved to the subscale of Precognition (psychokinesis, and ESP).

The results showed that Tobacyk’s PBS can be used validly across cultures. Some subscales may have to be re-entered into different categories based on the culture the researcher is testing. thus, the scale to test paranormal belief by Tobacyk is valid regardless of differences in cultures.

Submitted by: Bridget Cotton


Haraldsson, Erlendur. Houtkooper, Joop, M. (1996), Traditional Christian Beliefs, Spiritualism, and the Paranormal: An Icelandic-American Comparison. The International Journal For The Psychology of Religion, 6(1), 51-64.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *