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The Effects Of Belief In The Paranormal Psychology Essay

Cara Douglas - 0805362

The aim of this study is to establish whether there is an effect of belief in the paranormal on psychic ability. Participants in the study were selected via opportunity sampling and comprised of 152 first year forensic psychobiology students from Abertay University with 43 of these being male and 109 being female, out of these 90 were believers and 62 were non believers in the paranormal. The type of design utilized was within subjects design with the research hypothesis being that there will be an effect of belief in the paranormal on performance on the psychic ability task. In this study believers correctly guessed a greater number of symbols than non-believers with females correctly guessing a larger number of symbols than their male counterparts. To examine these observed differences an independent samples t-test was carried out with the differences between believers and non-believers being found to be significant whilst the observed differences between genders being found to be non-significant. The main conclusion drawn from this study was that there is a relationship between people who believe in the paranormal and their ability to predict symbols, this is apparent in this study as believers correctly guessed a greater number of symbols than non-believers.

‘Psi is a term used in parapsychology to denote anomalous processes of

Information transfer such as extrasensory perception that are not currently

Explicable in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.' (Milton & Wiseman 2001). Psican be used to describe the abnormal result of an experiment without the researcher being expected to decide between words like clairvoyance, telepathy, or psycho kinesis.Parapsychology is a discipline that strives to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities; it is the division of psychology that studies psychic phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance and extrasensory perception. Parapsychology commenced using the experimental approach in the 1930s under the leadership of J.B Rhine (1895 - 1980). Rhine thought up the now well-known methodology of using card-guessing experiments with the desire of discovering a statistical verification of extra-sensory perception or ESP, also generally referred to as the sixth sense, which is an alleged special ability to perceive something by not applying any of the five natural senses such as vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

P. Rodgers et al study titled Belief in paranormal, coping and emotional intelligence examined the relationship between paranormal belief, coping tactics and emotional intelligence. 253 participants took part in the study with ages ranging from 17-82 years of age, participants gender, age, occupational status and ethnicity were incorporated in the data set as possible correlates. These participants were sampled randomly with questionnaires being delivered via cold calling with completed questionnaires being collected the following day. ‘The questionnaires comprised of ‘ the revised paranormal belief scale (RPBS; Tobacyk, 1988) which consists of 26 items examining peoples beliefs concerning paranormal phenomena such as psi, witchcraft, precognition, spiritualism, superstition, extraordinary life forms and traditional beliefs. Items were measured on a 7 point likert scale from 1 ‘strongly disagree' to 7 ‘strongly agree' with higher RPBS scores reflecting greater paranormal belief '. Along with the ‘ ways of coping questionnaire' (WCQ; Folkman & Lazarus, 1988) designed to assess strategies people utilized to cope with stressful situations and a ‘the self report emotional intelligence test' (SREIT; Schutte et al., 1998) a self report which assessed individuals awareness, understanding and use of emotions. (Rogers et al 2006).

Rodgers et al derived from their study that belief in the paranormal is not related with coping strategies or subscales of emotionalintellect. Though evidence was found that suggests that if a person has a low understanding of emotional states or even trouble recognising them this will affect their conduct during times of hardship, in order to re-assure one's self and cope with actions that have or have not been taken leads subject to experience a increased tendency for supporting the existence of paranormal phenomena. The study follows the two factor model where global belief in paranormal is separated into ‘new age philosophy' which relates to such practices as predictions made through astrology and precognition. ‘Traditional paranormal beliefs' which relates to religion (heaven, hell and witchcraft).

Daryl J. Bem and Charles Honorton study titled Does psi exist? Provides replicable evidence for the unusual process of information transfer. Was a review of past ganzfeld experiments bem and honorton describe the results of their meta-analysis (a method intended to enhance the credibility of research by combining and analysing data from a series of similar experiments conducted over a period of time). The results of a number of ganzfeld studies authored by R. Hyman and C. Honorton (1986) were summarized in this paper. Bem and Honorton believed that chance performance would predict that the participants overall correct guesses would be around 25% but participants in bem and honorton's study achieved 35% which was clearly above the chance performance prediction. They also found that experimental conditions using dynamic optical stimuli produced higher correct rates than participants in the stationary optical stimuli condition. They believed that the replication and effect rates warrant additional study into this phenomenon. (Bem, D. J., & Honorton, C. (1994).

Smith, M. D., Foster, C.L., Stovin, G. (1998). Conducted a study titled Intelligence and Paranormal Belief: Examining the Role of Context. One purpose of this research was to access if those whom have a belief in paranormal phenomena are cognitively substandard to non-believers, along with the attempt to empirically test the notion that context (i.e. social and intellectual) has an effect on verbalized paranormal belief, they believed that this could account for negative relationships regarding belief and cognitive ability. The study concluded that their findings did not support the concept that participants whom scored high on intellectual ability tests were more prone to show decreased paranormal belief scores due to a sceptical framework. Their results however did support previous efforts suggestive of negative relationships involving belief and the ability of acquiring knowledge by the use of reasoning, intuition, or perception (Alcock & Otis, 1980) though when it comes to explaining the positive relationship between belief and intelligence stated by Jones, et al. (1977) they do little to support such findings. (Smith, M. D., Foster, C.L., Stovin, G. (1998).

Card-guessing ESP experiments were first thought up and performed by Rhine at Duke University in 1930. The cards were of five designs, now called ESP symbols, a square, a circle, a plus sign, a star, and a set of three curvy lines. In his experiment there is a pack of 25 ESP cards displaying these 5 symbols randomly arranged?

The participant tries to guess the order of the five symbols. The chance of calling a card correctly is one in five. Consequently, it is achievable to work out how often a specific score is likely to take place by chance in a particular number of guesses. It was Rhine's line of reasoning that when his participants acquired high scores that could only be anticipated to have resulted by chance only by a ratio of 1:1000 tries, they exhibited "extra chance" results, or ESP. (www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/J._B._Rhine)

Daryl J. Bem and Charles Honorton believed that chance performance would predict that the participants overall correct guesses would be around 25% but found that participants achieved 35% which was clearly above the chance performance prediction. They also found that experimental conditions using dynamic optical stimuli produced higher correct rates than participants in the stationary optical stimuli condition. They believed that the replication and effect rates warrant additional study into this phenomenon. The present study is trying to add to Daryl J. Bem and Charles Honorton findings along with J.B.Rhines previous study, though be it on a smaller scale making use of a relaxed version of J.B. Rhines card test, the aim of this study is to establish whether there is an effect of belief in the paranormal on psychic ability. Participants in the current study comprised of 152 first year forensic psychobiology students from Abertay University with 43 of these being male and 109 being female, out of these 90 were believers and 62 were non believers in the paranormal. The type of design utilized was within subjects design with the research hypothesis being that there will be an effect of belief in the paranormal on performance on the psychic ability task.

Participants

Participants in this experiment were found using convenience sampling from practical classes from the University of Abertay Dundee. Participants were comprised of 152 students, 43 male and 109 female with 90 participants being believers in the paranormal and 62 being non-believers.

Apparatus & Materials

The definition of paranormal (appendix A), verbal instructions (appendix B), data collection sheet containing instructions and a 1-7 likert scale (appendix C), sheet with four symbols which were star, heart, sun and moon (appendix D).

Procedure

Firstly the definition of paranormal was provided (appendix a) and verbal instructions were given.

The participants were split into groups of believers and non believers in the paranormal, this was done with the use of a likert scale with 1-3 being non belief in paranormal and 4-7 being belief in paranormal. After these participants were instructed to get into pairs and collect a set of cards with four different symbols, these symbols were star, heart, sun and moon. One at a time a member of each pair took the cards and held them so that the other participant could not see the symbols, then the participant holding the cards was to focus on a particular symbol as strongly as possible. The other participant then attempted to guess which image their partner was focussing on. Once they had verbalised their guess the person holding the card would tell them if they were correct or incorrect and this information would be circled on the data collection sheet that participants were provided with. Once this process was completed for the first participant the roles were swapped and the task was completed again for the other participant this process for each participant being repeated 10 times, once this process was finished the number of correct guesses for each participant was added up and this total was recorded on a data collection sheet. This sheet was then handed in to the researcher so that the results could be analysed.

RESULTS

Error bar graph showing means and 95% confidence intervals for number of correct guesses for believers and non-believers in the paranormal in a psychic ability task.

Shows that believers correctly guessed a greater number of symbols than non-believers, to examine the observed difference between believers and non-believers

Scores an independent samples t-test was carried out and the difference was found to be significant (t (150) =2.761, P=0.006) with believers scoring significantly more correct (4.72) than non-believers (3.74).

Error bar graph showing means and 95% confidence intervals for number of correct guesses for male and female participants.

Shows that females correctly guessed a greater number of symbols than males, to examine the observed difference between female and male participant scores an independent samples t-test was carried out and the difference was found to be non-significant (t(150)=1.805,P=0.73) with females scoring significantly more correct (4.52) than males (3.81).

The research hypothesis was that there will be an effect of belief in the paranormal on performance on the psychic ability task.In this study believers correctly guessed a greater number of symbols than non-believers with females correctly guessing a greater number of symbols than their male counterparts (though this could be due to the fact that there were a larger percentage of females participants as opposed to male participants). To examine these observed differences an independent samples t-test was carried out with the differences between believers and non-believers being found to be significant whilst the observed differences between genders being found to be non-significant. There for it can be concluded that the research hypothesis was supported as the study was aimed at the effect of belief in the paranormal on performance on the psychic ability test and once the results had been examined for this they were found to be significant.

The current experiment results were supportive of J.B.Rhines card-guessing study this could be due to actual ESP occurrences or due to the present study and J.B.Rhines study being similar methodologically. The results from the present experiment also corroborate findings by Bem & Honorton (1994) study to a degree as in both experiments as participants in both studies achieved correct guesses above the twenty five percent average. The results of present experiment add little to the understanding of the psychology of PSI but could be argued that it does reaffirm the idea that psi could exist.

The limitations in this study were that there is a chance for sensory leakage of information. The receiver could acquire the information via a normal sensory method, may this be unintentionally or through intentional cheating. For example cuing subjects unknowingly, could be seen as a problem in this particular study, as if the receiver in the present study were to watch the eye movements of the sender, they could make an informed guess as to what symbol the sender was looking at, as symbols were presented on an A4 piece of paper. Inadequate controls could allow participants to see or hear things by regular means. A way of combating such leakage would be to separate sender and receivers view of each other by way of a wall obstructing view or more severely placing sender and receiver in separate rooms. Also statistical guessing otherwise known as card counting could pose a problem as in this study as receivers were told after each guess if they were correct or incorrect thus it could be argued that if a star came up the first time it is unlikely to come up the second time etc. A way of combating this is to not divulge the correct and incorrect guesses until the experiment is complete but probably a better way of combating is to use same method for combating sensory leakage and keep sender and cards out of sight of receiver.

It is the opinion of the researcher of this study that future studies should be based on the technique currently utilized in this study (card-guessing) as it is simple to recreate but on the basis of a few tweaks such as senders and receivers being separated to separate rooms to disallow for leakage or cheating. Also more participants should be utilised from all backgrounds to allow for cultural differences to be noted as it is possible for belief and religion to create different ‘belief boundaries'. Religious and cultural beliefs would be interesting to look at in itself as well (cultural differences in belief based on religion) in a between subjects capacity. Another point for further research could be to look into remote viewers etc that help the police with their enquiries into crimes as this shows a real life view of ESP in use in the world and could prove with the right controls such as proof of participants (remote viewers etc) having no previous knowledge of crimes and sensory leakage of any knowledge already known by police being minimal and controlled.

In conclusion, the results of this study demonstrates a link between the belief in the paranormal and psychic ability which supports the findings of J.B. Rhine and Bem & Honorton whom both conducted extrasensory perception and found that participants guessed correctly more often than could be explained by chance thus came to the conclusion that this implied the existence of human psychic ability. Though it questions Milton & Wiseman (2001) investigation as it failed to confirm psychic abilities though they could be criticized for selecting quotes that include "psi-questioning" content whilst disregarding "psi-supporting" explanations.Future research should extend on experiments preformed by J.B Rhine and Bem & Honorton as previously stated.

REFFERENCES

Alcock, J.E,. & Otis, L.P. (1980). Critical thinking and belief in the paranormal. Psychological Reports, 45, 479-482.

Bem, D. J., & Honorton, C. (1994). Does psi exist? Replicable evidence for an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological bulletin, 115, 4-8.

Folkman, S., Lazarus, R.S. (1988). Manual for the ways of coping Questionnaire,

Palo Alto, CA; Consulting Psychologists Press.

Milton, J,. & Wiseman, R. (2001) Does psi exist? Reply to Storm and Ertel (2001) Psychological bulletin,127, 434-438

Rogers, P., Qualter, P., Phelps, G., & Gardner, K. (2006). Belief in the paranormal, coping and emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 1089-1105.

Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Hall, L. E., Haggerty, D. J., Cooper, J. T., Golden, C. J., et al. (1998). Development and validation of a measure of emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 25,167-177.

Smith, M. D., Foster, C.L., Stovin, G. (1998). Intelligence and Paranormal Belief: Examining the Role of Context, The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 62, 1998.

Tobacyk, J. J. (1988). A Revised Paranormal Belief Scale. Unpublished manuscript. Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA.

www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/J._B._Rhine

www.psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Paranormal.com


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