What do you think? Are psychic phenomena real? I’m going to demonstrate my incredible psychic powers (hah!) and make a prediction that if you’re reading these posts on a regular (or even occasional) basis you have some degree of belief in at least some types of psychic phenomena.
But does believing, say, in ghosts necessarily mean you also believe in extraterrestrial visitors? If you believe in psychokinesis, does it necessarily mean you believe in reincarnation?
What does the research say about belief in psychic phenomena?
I ran across a fascinating paper a few months ago, describing a study by Neil Dagnall, Andrew Parker, Gary Munley, and Kenneth Drinkwater of the Psychology Department of the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.* The researchers investigated how people ranging in age from 14 to 70 believed in nine different types of paranormal events:
- Existence of life on other planets
- Religious beliefs
- Extraterrestrial visitations
- Psychic phenomena (telepathy, telempathy, precognition, etc.)
The participants were mostly female (about three-quarters). Now, you might think that having religious beliefs wouldn’t be strongly correlated with believing in, say, ghosts or psychokinesis. But that wasn’t what the Dagnell’s crew discovered. There was a moderately strong correlation between having religious beliefs and believing in hauntings, psychic phenomena, psychokinesis, astrology, and witchcraft. On the other hand, there was almost no correlation between religious belief and belief in alien life and only a weak correlation with either superstition and alien visitations.
What was interesting, however, was that belief in life on other planets didn’t correlate much to anything except alien visitations. (That makes sense when you realize that if you don’t believe in life on other planets, you probably also don’t believe in extraterrestrials from those other planets are coming here!)
On the other hand, most people who believed in any of the psychic phenomena also believed in nearly all the other psychic phenomena.
So what does this mean?
The reason I find this study interesting is that it implies that there is a kind of “psychic phenomena” mindset. If you have that mindset, if you believe in one type of psychic phenomena, you’re likely to also believe in others.
FIrst, this study resulted in correlations, not hard-and-fast linkages. And while the correlations were moderately strong, they simply don’t mean that everyone who believes in psychokinesis believes in astrology. It’s just that a substantial percentage believe in both.
Another thing this study does not say is that there is any causal link between the beliefs. In other words, it does not imply that believing in astrology causes you to believe in ghosts, or vice versa.
All the study says is that if you believe in ghosts, there’s a pretty decent likelihood that you also believe in spoon-bending or psychokinesis.
Is this because those who have experienced one type of psychic event are likely to later experience others? That was my situation. Once I admitted that I had strong evidence that one psychic phenomenon was true, I was suddenly inundated with experiences of other types of psychic phenomena.
As I mentioned in an earlier post (Are we all mystics? The science of the mystic experience.) there does appear to be specific circuitry in the brain associated with mystic experiences. Is it possible that once you learn to activate that circuitry, you enable yourself to experience a panoply of psychic phenomena?
Does this also imply that those who are skeptical are simply those who have never activated that circuitry?
I have no idea. But it’s interesting speculation, don’t you think?
What do you think? Why are those who believe in ghosts more likely to believe in astrology? Or in spoon-bending?
* Dagnell, N., Parker, A., Munley, G., and Drinkwater, K. (2010). Common paranormal belief dimensions. Journal of Scientific Exploration, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 477-494.
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