Testing the Validity of the Ghost Box as a Tool for Paranormal Investigation.

Mitch Silverstein1, Stephanie Bohn1, Kenny Biddle2

February 21, 2015

ABSTRACT:

The Ghost Box is a widely used device for paranormal investigating. We question the level of objectivity by those using this device. Respondents were sent a one minute recording from a Shack Hack Ghost Box and asked to respond to a questionnaire. We analyzed the results and explored the workings of these devices. The findings tell us that the interpretation of results by those who use this tool is very biased and subjective. The results collected in the field should not be put forth as evidence of paranormal activity.

Although a larger sampling of participants would strengthen the support of our hypothesis, we conclude there is enough information to state the Ghost Box is not a proper research tool for paranormal investigating due to the strong bias involved in the use and interpretation of the responses in the field. The intended use of the Ghost Box lends little or no control over the many inherent variables and it solely relies on subjective opinions as to what results are considered valid. The units are flawed in the sense that it will generate syllables by default which guarantees a user with belief in the device will interpret it as a spirit response. We do not present this research to suggest to people what to believe in, we merely support the facts and evidence that perceived results from the ghost box should remain a personal experience and should not be presented as supporting evidence of paranormal activity nor be included in any scientific methodology. Those presenting evidence based on Ghost Box recordings will bear the burden of proof that their findings support their beliefs.

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When Knowledge Knows No Bounds Self-Perceived Expertise Predicts Claims of Impossible Knowledge

Abstract:

People overestimate their knowledge, at times claiming knowledge of concepts, events, and people that do not exist and cannot be known, a phenomenon called overclaiming. What underlies assertions of such impossible knowledge? We found that people overclaim to the extent that they perceive their personal expertise favorably. Studies 1a and 1b showed that self-perceived financial knowledge positively predicts claiming knowledge of nonexistent financial concepts, independent of actual knowledge. Study 2 demonstrated that self-perceived knowledge within specific domains (e.g., biology) is associated specifically with overclaiming within those domains. In Study 3, warning participants that some of the concepts they saw were fictitious did not reduce the relationship between self-perceived knowledge and overclaiming, which suggests that this relationship is not driven by impression management. In Study 4, boosting self-perceived expertise in geography prompted assertions of familiarity with nonexistent places, which supports a causal role for self-perceived expertise in claiming impossible knowledge.

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Stav Atir1, Emily Rosenzweig2, and David Dunning1 1 Department of Psychology, Cornell University, and 2 Department of Marketing, Tulane University

Bias versus bias: Harnessing hindsight to reveal paranormal belief change beyond demand characteristics

Abstract:
Psychological change is difficult to assess, in part because self-reported beliefs and attitudes may be biased or distorted. The present study probed belief change, in an educational context, by using the hindsight bias to counter another bias that generally plagues assessment of subjective change. Although research has indicated that skepticism courses reduce paranormal beliefs, those findings may reflect demand characteristics (biases toward desired, skeptical responses). Our hindsight-bias procedure circumvented demand by asking students, following semester-long skepticism (and control) courses, to recall their precourse levels of paranormal belief. People typically remember themselves as previously thinking, believing, and acting as they do now, so current skepticism should provoke false recollections of previous skepticism. Given true belief change, therefore, skepticism students should have remembered themselves as having been more skeptical than they were. They did, at least about paranormal topics that were covered most extensively in the course. Our findings thus show hindsight to be useful in evaluating cognitive change beyond demand characteristics.
Psychology and its allied disciplines have long struggled to accurately assess change, whether that ostensible change results from maturation, senescence, laboratory experimental manipulations, psychotherapeutic techniques, community interventions, or educational programs (see, e.g., Cronbach & Furby, 1970; Hertzog & Nesselroade, 2003; Lord, 1956, 1967; Nesselroade, Stigler, & Baltes, 1980; Rubin, 1974). Of course, in contexts in which the desired change is entirely subjective—as is the case with attitudes, beliefs, cognitions, evaluations, or emotional states—the risks of misidentifying or misinterpreting change will only increase, since subjects’ self-reports may be biased, distorted, or erroneous (see, e.g., Conway & Ross, 1984; Festinger, 1957; Greenwald, Spangenberg, Pratkanis, & Eskenazi, 1991; Hoogstraten, 1979; Kirsch, 1985; Lewinsohn & Rosenbaum, 1987; Loftus, 1979; H. Markus & Kunda, 1986; Orne, 1962; Wilson & Brekke, 1994). Researchers must therefore develop statistical and methodological tools to help discriminate real from illusory change. The present study demonstrated a seemingly paradoxical approach, whereby a powerful cognitive bias was strategically deployed as a means to counter another, especially formidable bias that plagues assessment of subjective change —here, in the context of an educational intervention designed to affect undergraduates’ beliefs.

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By: Michael J. Kane, Tammy J. Core R. Reed Hunt

Made available courtesy of the Psychonomic Society: http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/PBR.17.2.206

Paranormal Belief and Biases in Reasoning Underlying the Formation of Delusions

Abstract: Some recent research suggests that psycho logical processes underlying the formation of paranormal beliefs have much in common with those underlying delusional beliefs. On this ground a survey was conducted to investigate the relationship between paranormal beliefs and distortions in reasoning known to be associated with the development of psychotic delusions. A convenience sample of 250 people completed an online inventory of questionnaires measuring the intensity of paranormal beliefs, schizotypal biases in reasoning, and the need for closure. Both dimensions of paranormal belief surveyed here were found to be predicted by reasoning biases.

Australian Journal of Parapsychology 12/2012; 12(1):1445-2308.

HARVEY J. IRWIN, NEIL DAGNALL, & KENNETH DRINKWATER

Paranormal experience and the COMT dopaminergic gene: A preliminary attempt to associate phenotype with genotype using an underlying brain theory

Amir Raza,d,*, Terence Hinesb, John Fossellac and Daniella Castrob

a b s t r a c t

Paranormal belief and suggestibility seem related. Given our recent findings outlining a putative association between suggestibility and a specific dopaminergic genetic polymorphism, we hypothesized that similar exploratory genetic data may offer supplementary insights into a similar correlation with paranormal belief. With more affordable costs and better technology in the aftermath of the human genome project, genotyping is increasingly ubiquitous. Compelling brain theories guide specific research hypotheses as scientists begin to unravel tentative relationships between phenotype and genotype. In line with a dopaminergic brain theory, we tried to correlate a specific phenotype concerning paranormal belief with a dopaminergic gene (COMT) known for its involvement in prefrontal executive cognition and for a polymorphism that is positively correlated with
suggestibility. Although our preliminary findings are inconclusive, the research approach we outline should pave the road to a more scientific account of elucidating paranormal belief.

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Inattentional Blindness, Absorption, Working Memory Capacity, and Paranormal Belief

Abstract:

Anne Richards Department of Psychological Sciences
Birkbeck College University of London
Moa Gunnarsson Hellgren, Christopher C. French
Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit
Department of Psychology
Goldsmiths College

Two studies investigated the relationship between inattentional blindness, paranormal belief/experience, absorption, and working memory capacity (WMC). ‘Inattentional blindness’ (IB) refers to the failure to consciously register an unexpected visual stimulus or event when attention is diverted to a different task. Absorption is a highly focused state where individuals are unaware of stimuli outside of attentional focus and is linked with paranormal belief. It was predicted that IB individuals would have higher absorption scores and be more likely to believe in the paranormal than non-inattentionally blind (NIBs) individuals. In both studies, IBs had higher absorption and paranormal belief scores than NIBs, as predicted. In addition, Study 2 measured WMC. Although absorption predicted IB, when WMC and paranormal belief were entered into the analysis, only WMC predicted IB with IBs having lower WMC than NIBs. These data offer support for a cognitive deficit account of paranormal belief.

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REALITY TESTING AND THE FORMATION OF PARANORMAL BELIEFS: A CONSTRUCTIVE REPLICATION

by HARVEY J. IRWIN
ABSTRACT:
This study investigated the role of reality testing deficits in the formation of belief in the paranormal. In the present context reality testing is taken to entail the person’s inclination to test critically the logical plausibility of his or her beliefs. An earlier study of this relationship by the author (Irwin, in press) was partially compromised by the use of an index of reality testing deficits that was potentially contaminated by a small number of items implicating paranormal belief. The current research therefore constitutes a constructive replication of the original study in that it surveyed the relationship of facets of paranormal belief to a deficit in reality testing when the measure of the latter had no items concurrently incorporating specifically paranormal beliefs. A questionnaire survey of 161 adults from the general Australian population revealed that two  fundamental facets of paranormal belief were predicted by reality testing deficits. The findings are discussed in relation to the cognitive bases of the formation of paranormal belief.
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