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Deception, Self-Deception, Superstition and Coincidence
1. Deception- act of making someone believe something that is not true. Evolution-
Pinker important to distinguish between the function of paranormal beliefs for the
believer and the function for those in power (priests), evolved because the power it
gave to leaders- Machiavellian Intelligence. Difficult to detect- Wiseman- most
accurate when face to face, so vocal cues are more reliable than social ones.
2. Self-deception- process of denying or rationalising away opposing evidence and
argument- justify false beliefs. Psychodynamic explanation- people have emotional
attachments to beliefs, due to functions they serve or because of personality
factors, person believes one thing when unconsciously believing another.
Evolutionary explanation- Trivers- both evolved together, if person can pot
deception have selective advantage, same for deceivers- have to believe your own
lie before you can deceive others.
3. Superstition- beliefs not based on reason or knowledge. Behaviourist- Skinner said
that superstitions develop through operant conditioning where an accidental
stimulus-response link is learned. Evolutionary- causal thinking is adaptive, but can
lead to type 1 errors.
4. Coincidence- superstitions are learnt because of 2 events happen at about the same
time and we assume one causes the other. Probability misjudgement- believers
underestimate statistical likelihood on probability judgment tasks, increase their
desire for causal explanations for coincidences- such events can't co-occur by chance.
5. Critical Point 1: There is a flaw with the view that deception has to be involved in
paranormal beliefs and experiences. This is that it does not apply to all anomalous
experiences, out-of-body experiences and seeing a UFO are a couple examples of
this. Consequently, we cannot draw causal conclusions about the link between
deception and anomalous experiences as it does not apply to all types, weakening
the theory on the whole.
6. Critical Point 2: The evolution of deception can be maladaptive in some cases.
Wiseman states that there are some troubling stories of people handing over large
sums of money over to psychics, or even a man committing suicide as his psychic told
him he was going to die young. Therefore, this supports the theory of Machiavellian
intelligence, however there are serious ethical issues to consider about whether
deception should still be used in today's world.
7. Critical Point 1: There is some support for both the evolutionary and psychodynamic
explanation of why we have self-deception. This is according to evolutionary theory,
fraudulent psychological have developed the ability to believe their own lies and
according the psychodynamic theory their desire to find support for psi phenomena
is so great that it pushes the knowledge of what they are doing into their
unconscious mind. As a result of this, it strengths both the psychodynamic and
evolutionary explanation for the psychology behind self-deception.
8. Critical Point 2: There is a strong benefit of self-deception. Taylor proposes that
self-deception might actually be a positive aspect of human behaviour because
facing the plain truth may be depressing, for example the belief that there is life
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Consequently, paranormal beliefs and thereby self-deception actually cheer you up
by inventing happier alternatives.
9. Critical Point 1: There is strong support for the behaviourist explanation into the
psychology of superstition. Skinner looked at developing superstition in animals, he
found that certain random behaviours immediately preceded the food and these
behaviours were then observed to persist as ritualistic behaviour. Skinner's
explanation for why this happened was the random behaviours were reinforced by
the arrival of food.…read more