PSYA4 - Anomalistic psychology (complete notes)

Detailed revision notes for the AQA anomalistic psychology topic.

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Anomalistic psychology is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences most of the research
is directed towards finding nonparanormal explanations for ostensibly paranormal experiences.
This differs from parapsychology in that parapsychologists typically are searching for evidence to prove
that paranormal forces actually exist their starting assumption is that paranormal phenomena are real,
whereas anomalistic psychologists tend to start from the assumption that paranormal phenomena do
not exist and therefore we should be looking for other kinds of explanations.
A pseudoscience is any discipline which claims to be a science but lacks the conventions and scientific
rigour of more established sciences.
Characteristics of pseudoscience (Radner & Radner, 1982):
Anachronistic thinking ­ the tendency to return to outdated theories that have already been
disproved or shown to be unworkable (e.g. creationism)
Looking for mysteries ­ the assumption that if conventional theorists cannot supply
completely watertight theories for every single case, they should admit that the pseudoscientific
claim is valid
Appeal to myths the tendency to assume that ancient myths are literally true and can be
explained in terms of hypothesised special conditions that held true at the time but no longer do
Grabbag approach to evidence ­ the attitude that sheer quantity of evidence makes up for
any deficiency in the quality of individual pieces of evidence
Irrefutable hypotheses ­ hypotheses that cannot be falsified as there is no evidence that
could count against them, despite usually having no solid evidence in favour either
Argument from spurious similarity ­ the tendency to argue that the principles upon which a
pseudoscience is based are already part of legitimate science when in fact any similarity is
spurious and superficial (e.g. astrologers often refer to perfectly acceptable research into
biological rhythms as if the latter supported their claims)
Refusal to revise in light of criticism ­ the tendency to argue that pseudoscientific beliefs are
better than conventional scientific beliefs because conventional science is constantly rejecting
or refining its theories in the light of new data
Types of pseudoscience (Dutch, 2006):
Authoritarian ­ to validate assumed truth (e.g. creationism to validate Christianity)
Mystical ­ to explain experience (e.g. astrology explains unlikely coincidences)
Tabloid ­ to excite people (e.g. Bigfoot makes interesting news stories)
Junk science ­ to support vested interests (e.g. research that questions global warming)
Ignored science ­ to support dated ideas in the face of modern evidence (e.g. the shroud of
Turin is less than 1000 years old but this is ignored)

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The Ganzfeld procedure is a wellcontrolled lab procedure to investigate ESP (extrasensory perception).
It can be used to test three types of ESP:
Clairvoyance (visually perceiving object outside visual field)
Telepathy (transmission and receiving of thoughts between two people)
Precognition (perceiving events before they take place)
The aim is to induce a mild sensory deprivation which will heighten ESP ability by blocking the
interference of other senses.…read more

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Parker and Brusewitz (2003) state that this is a myth and point out evidence of 6 case studies
of people who score well above chance.
Milton & Wiseman (1999) argued that using the Ganzfeld technique to investigate ESP was
methodologically flawed as replication is practically impossible.…read more

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Psychokinesis is `the mind's ability to affect or move an object at a distance by intention alone' (Henry,
2005). There are four types of possible PK phenomenon:
MacroPK ­ affecting by intention objects large enough to see the effect (e.g. spoonbending)
Recurrent spontaneous PK ­ poltergeist activity
MicroPK ­ affecting very small objects (e.g. random numbers generated by a computer)
Direct mental interaction with living systems (e.g. `spiritual healing')
Psychokinesis can be studied in both natural and controlled surroundings.…read more

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Coincidence is when two events happen at the same time and we assume (rightly or wrongly) that one
causes the other. This can create a cognitive bias that one event causes the other, which may lead to
superstitious beliefs.
Explanations of coincidence (Watt, 199091)
Hidden cause ­ when a coincidence is influenced by outside factors you are unaware of
Multiple end points ­ a `nearly' is more likely than an `exact'
Law of extremely large numbers ­ e.g.…read more

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Difference in the way `belief' is measured ­ in many studies a general scale is used whereas in
Blackmore's study there was simply one question about whether or not the participant believed
in ESP.
There is a link between probability misjudgements and paranormal belief but not a definite
causal relationship ­ there may be an intervening factor e.g.…read more

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Damisch et al. found that the activation of goodluckrelated superstitions led to enhanced
performance on a variety of tasks (such as motor dexterity and memory) and suggest that such
superstitions increase one's selfefficacy.
Animal research lacks generalisability to humans and raises some ethical issues
Freud believed that magical thinking is a form of childlike thought where inner feelings are
projected onto the outer world. In adults, such behaviour is a defence mechanism where
regression is a means of coping with anxiety.…read more

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Neuroticism ­ paranormal beliefs may act as a defence mechanism to create a distance from
reality and reduce negative emotional states
Extroverts seek stimulation to increase brain arousal levels and respond better to new stimuli
than introverts they are therefore more open to paranormal experiences so their beliefs are
likely to be stronger.
Individuals with schizotypal personalities have a tendency towards magical thinking and fantasy
proneness, as well as hallucinations and disordered thinking.…read more

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A neardeath experience (NDE) occurs when a person is either in a state of or close to clinical death,
and can also occur after fainting in stressful situations. Some explanations of NDEs include:
Psychological, e.g. viewing it as a spiritual experience
Endorphins (released at times of pain or stress) lead to feelings of euphoria and detachment.…read more

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Green studied 400 cases of naturallyoccurring OBEs and found that 20% involved another
body (parasomatic rather than asomatic), 25% were linked to psychological stress and 12%
occurred during sleep.
Alvardo reviewed lab studies where OBEs were induced (e.g. by relaxation/hypnosis).
Participants were asked to identify objects which were out of sight of their physical bodies and
one individual was able to read out a randomlyselected fivedigit number placed in another room
Blanke et al.…read more


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