Factors Underlying Anomalous Experience

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  • Created on: 24-10-13 20:39
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  • Factors Underlying Anomalous Experience
    • Cognitive
      • Wiseman and Watt (2006) listed cognitive processes underlying paranormal beliefs.
      • General cognitive ability
        • lower intelligence more likely to be believers.
          • Not always confirmed in all studies, e.g. Jones et al. (1977) found complete opposite.
      • Finding links between distantly related materials.
        • May underlie creativity (Thalbourne, 1998)
      • Probability misjudgement
        • underestimating probability that events happen by chance.
        • May be linked to low cognitive ability.
      • Fantasy proneness
        • Becoming so deeply absorbed in fantasy to believe it real.
    • Personality
      • Russell and Jones (1980) - paranormal beliefs may satisfy psychological need, including neuroticism, schizotypy and extraversion.
      • Belief in paranormal linked to narcissism, but link not found with other disorders.
      • Auton et al. (2003) - found link between self-actualisation and paranormal belief.
      • locus of control - depends on type of paranormal belief, some correlate positively with externality, others negatively.
    • Biological
      • Right hemisphere over-activation (Pizzagalli et al., 2000)
        • Right hemisphere dominance association requires intuitive leap.
      • High levels of dopamine - demonstrated in Brugger et al. (2000) study.
        • link with dopamine levels has not been replicated.
      • Belief in paranormal may be inherited (e.g. Koenig et al., 2005).
    • Paranormal beliefs
      • Belief in paranormal is adaptive because less questioning > more productivity > more reproductive success.
      • Paranormal beliefs related to psychological needs.
      • Defence mechanism
        • Anxious individuals can reduce uncertainty.
      • Childhood experiences create need for greater sense of control provided by paranormal beliefs.
        • Abuse in childhood may lead to fantasy proneness.
        • Support for 'need for control' explanation obtained during Gulf war.
      • Evolutionary approach ignores possibility that paranormal abilities may confer advantages on those who possess them.
      • Anomalous experiences are more likely to be reported as negative than positive.
    • Related beliefs
      • Religiosity related to paranormal beliefs.
        • Religion is response to emotional conflicts, rituals allow control over unconscious conflicts.
        • Religion provides answers to many questions that science cannot explain.
          • Dawkins (1997) - science is not a matter of faith, it requires evidence and replication of that evidence.
        • Some studies have found no correlation between religiosity and paranormal belief.
        • Religion not adaptive, but by-product of other mental faculties.
      • Credulity - adaptive among ancestors to accept explanations in order to avoid dangerous situations.
      • Spiritual healing relies on the 'placebo effect'.
    • Deception
      • Function of paranormal different for those who believe and those in power.
      • Ability to manipulate others through deception has adaptive advantage.
      • Some examples of deception are harmless, others are not (Wiseman, 1997).
      • Ability to deceive someone else is necessary for 'Theory of Mind'.
      • Deception detection greater on radio than TV (Wiseman, 1995).
    • Self-deception
      • Denying or rationalising away opposing evidence and argument.
      • May occur because of emotional attachment to beliefs. Difficult to hold contradictory results so one conscious other unconscious.
      • Selective advantage of self-deception is that makes individual better at deceiving others.
      • Self-deception can explain why some researchers are able to believe their own lies.
      • Some evidence for belief in paranormal being linked to repressed thoughts, but evidence not consistent.
      • Positive aspect of human behaviour as such beliefs cheer people up.
    • Superstition
      • Skinner (1947) - superstitions develop when accidental stimulus-response link is learned.
        • Staddon and Simmelhag (1971) - repeated Skinner's experiment and found 'superstitious' behaviours unrelated to food reward.
      • Causal thinking evolved because helps individuals understand, predict and control their environments.
      • Type 1 errors of causal thinking tolerated in order to avoid Type 2 errors.
      • Some superstitions are culture wide, adopted because of perceived sense of control.
    • Coincidence
      • If two things happen at the same time, one is assumed to have caused the other.
      • Those underestimating statistical likelihood on probability judgement tasks have increased desire for causal explanations for coincidences.
      • Explanations for coincidence give sense of order in world and increase feelings of control.
        • Whitson and Galinsky (2008) - reduced sense of control did lead people to form illusory correlations.
      • Probability misjudgements can alternatively be explained in terms of failing to understand heuristics such as representativeness.
    • Cultural significance
      • Imagination - development of 'transcendental social', which unites social groups.
      • Religion important because increases social bonding and group behaviour.
      • Religion important in maintaining moral behaviour.
      • Recent views suggest natural selection takes place at individual and group levels.
      • Marx (1843) - religion is a social institution to maintain culture.

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