Social Impact and Paranormal Belief

 

Markovsky and Thye (2001) took a look at social impact theory and the belief in the paranormal. These researchers wanted to determine if paranormal beliefs were transmitted from person to person. Social impact theory is based on a variety of changes in physiological states, and how subjective feelings, a person’s motives, emotions, cognitive beliefs, values, and behavior occur in a person., Any behavior could be a result of a real, implied or imaginative presence or actions of another person. In other words, could one person’s belief in the paranormal transmit to another person based on the previous group or persons belief or experience?

Pyramidology is the belief that a pyramid would preserve, give energy, or cure anything that is placed inside it or below it. Researchers took a pyramid and a pair of bananas. The experimenter had given instructions to the subjects that included a review of “evidence” that the pyramid had special powers in preserving anything inside it, just like the pharaohs bodies that had been found entombed in Egypt. Participants were then asked to answer questions in regards to the look, feel, and freshness of the banana. During the second part of the experiment, the researchers did not talk about the power of the pyramid.

Results showed that those that had been told about the pyramid’s powers rated the bananas higher in freshness and preservation. Those participants that were not told rated the bananas lower in freshness, look, feel and was a difference of five points on a fifteen point scale. The hypothesis about social impact theory was accepted due to the paranormal pyramid power “evidence” did show a difference in how participants rated the condition of the banana.

Reference:

Markovsky, B. and Thye, S., R. 2001. Social Influence on Paranormal Beliefs. Sociological Perspectives, 44(1), 21-44.

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