Five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research


1 Audio, Video or Photos will NEVER serve as conclusive proof of “paranormal” phenomena 

Oh I know that statement is bound to launch a thousand debates (and a few more hate mails), but let’s be honest here… media is not only easily misunderstood, it’s easily manipulated. Everything that is submitted as evidence on media carries with it a silent requirement to “trust” the source (a.k.a. the person who submitted it) and therein lies the problem.  If you present me with an incredible video of a ghostly being traversing the stairs of some old home,  my acceptance of this as evidence now presents me with an obligation to believe you didn’t fake it, misinterpret it or misrepresent it. I have to believe you that the conditions were as you say they were when it was captured and that everything else you present me with in support of that video is ALSO legitimate (i.e. photos, meter readings, experiences etc.).

That’s a lot of trust… Slow down, we hardly know each other. 

It’s this unstable variable that prevents any media based evidence from being considered conclusive (or even in some cases suggestive). So what DOES constitute conclusive proof?  I’m glad you asked. There is only one factor that will ever conclusively prove the existence of any unusual phenomenon and that is “demonstrability”.  Yep, you need to be able to demonstrate or repeat it to a degree that it can be studied with some element of reliability under strict controls.

You see the scientific method suggests that a concept or idea is more credible when it can be repeated. Even if only through long and tedious means. Repetition and control are key. If it’s a phenomena (and not just an event), it will or can be repeated.

 2 No matter how “in control and grounded” you claim to be, your brain can and DOES continue to fool you… you are not immune.

Oh people say it all the time. “I’m not crazy.”, “I know what I saw”, “I wasn’t hallucinating”, “I wouldn’t lie about something like that.”, “She told me she was 18”. Well maybe not the last one, but the point is people are exceedingly hard to convince when it comes to doubting their own perceptions. We all want to believe that our senses are relatively infallible, that our brains are not easily fooled and that our rationalization skills are in great working order. But the truth is utterly disappointing.

For decades numerous scientists and researchers around the world have documented the astounding fallibility of our perceptive process. Television shows, games, carnival attractions and even art have been created that specifically take advantage of the holes in our cognitive faculties. We are ALL born suckers and there’s really nothing we can do about it other than understand that the condition exists and honestly consider these shortcomings in our analysis of unusual events.

3  Your shining credibility does not make your experience more believable.

Groucho Marx once said, “There’s one way to find out if a man is honest: ask him. If he says yes, then you know he is crooked.”  – That statement was  only funny because it’s true.

Everyone – you, me, your spouse, children, siblings, co-workers, best friends, teachers, employers and even your sweet old grandmother have told lies. By age four, 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying (Osmols 2011), and it just goes downhill from there. According to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of all adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without telling a lie at least once (UMASS 2002). and according to the study those folks who did lie actually told an average of 3 lies during their short discussion with the researchers.

I know you’re sitting there right now insisting that you would be part of the 40% that didn’t lie but that’s what the liars in the study thought, too. When they reviewed their own conversations, they were flabbergasted at how many lies they had actually told.

Unsurprisingly, we also sometimes lie about important aspects. According to one estimate, 40% of people lie on their resumes (Forbes 2006).  A shocking 90% of people looking for a date online lie in their profile. (Scientific American 2007)   So no matter how honest you believe you are, no matter how accurate your rendition of a paranormal event is (even if it truly happened to you), the majority of the world will never simply “accept” what you are claiming with complete certainty… They just won’t.

Any equipment that requires the “interpretation” of non-repeatable results is complete bullshit.

Yep , I went there….bullshit.  In fact pretty much all of the marketed devices used in “ghost hunting” today  require a personal interpretation of the results in order to determine the significance of their output.  (Yes I’m looking at you spirit box, Ovilus, Paranormal Puck, Vortex Dome, Para-Scope, V-Pod, Rem Pod, Ghost Ark, Dowsing Rods, Pendulums, Ouija Boards, KII Meters, Geo-Pods and yes…EMF Meters)

So what’s wrong with personal interpretation you say?  I will explain…

Scenario 1-  In a hospital, a doctor uses a heart monitor to determine if someone is having  heart trouble. He / She interprets the readings of the heart monitor to make or assist in a diagnosis.

Scenario 2 – In an old home a paranormal investigator uses a specialized device (choose any from the list above) to determine if the home is haunted. He/ She interprets the readout/response of the equipment to make a determination.

So what is the difference between Scenario 1 and 2? They seem relatively the same right? Well not really.

In scenario 1 the doctor is measuring a tangible object – the human heart. It’s proper function has been well documented and how a healthy one should appear on a heart monitor is academic as is the comparison between the live readings and the expected readings used to help  indicate a problem. The interpretation the doctor makes is based on known and “demonstrated” information.

In scenario 2 the investigator is simply looking for any unusual reaction, especially one that ties into his / her expectations or the context of the location or perhaps even one that correlates with other experiences. This is done because he/she doesn’t know with any certainty what a paranormal experience “should” read. There is no documented historical data for a paranormal occurrence. So responsible comparisons cannot be made and interpretations are based entirely on subjective opinion. Hardly factual.

“Nobody has EVER linked EMF to actual localized paranormal occurrences in any reliable or predictable fashion….EVER.”

Question: So if that’s the case how can manufacturers of paranormal gadgetry even begin to design a device that works?

Answer: They can’t.

 (They are all bullshit in my opinion):

5 There has never been any credible, demonstrable research to even suggest the plausibility of life beyond death.

Sure there have been “sciency” people in history who have attempted to prove the existence of a soul, others who tried to establish communications with those who have passed and still others who have insisted they have been to the other side and back, but in spite of the numerous attempts and claims that flood the internet, we are not any closer to officially proving life after death than we were 5000 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t love the idea of a second chance?  To see your departed loved ones again, to be free of the mortal bonds that plague our existence, to have learned from a lifetime of experience, free of illness, free of strife, free of pain. It sure is a comforting thought, but unfortunately, right now, it’s only that… a thought.  The fact is that the research conducted over the past two centuries in the hopes of proving “life after death” have chalked up a big fat zilch in terms of results. If it’s there, we haven’t proven it yet…  no one has.

So for those in search of human souls, ghosts and spirits… to officially claim that you have contacted the dear departed, you must first establish with complete certainty (not just with opinion) that life does go on beyond this mortal veil. That there are dis-incarnate “beings” there to contact. Do this and the rest will go down the scientific gullet like a candy coated gumdrop. Until then… well… you know.

So here we have it five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research. I’ll finish by saying that this in no way proclaims that unusual, undiscovered phenomena doesn’t exists. In fact, I’m inclined to believe it does, but once again that’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about those.

No one ever said it was going to be easy.




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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Critical thinking ability and belief in the paranormal

Andreas Hergovich a,*, Martin Arendasy a
a Institute of Psychology of the University of Vienna, Liebigg. 5, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Received 10 March 2004;received in revised form 30 September 2004;accepted 1 November 2004
Available online 2 February 2005

A study was conducted to assess the relationship between critical thinking and belief in the paranormal. 180 students from three departments (psychology, arts, computer science) completed one measure of reasoning, the Paranormal Belief Scale (Tobacyk & Milford, 1983), and a scale of paranormal experiences. Half of the subjects filled out the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (Ennis & Millmann, 1985) and the Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser, 2002), respectively. The results show no significant correlations between critical thinking and paranormal belief or experiences. Reasoning ability, however, had a significant effect on paranormal belief scores, but not on paranormal experiences. Subjects with lower reasoning ability scored higher on Traditional Paranormal Belief and New Age Philosophy than did subjects with higher reasoning abilities. Results suggest that those who have better reasoning abilities scrutinise to a greater extent whether their experiences are sufficient justification for belief in the reality of these phenomena.
2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Critical thinking ability;Paranormal belief;Paranormal experiences;Reasoning ability

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Paranormal Belief and Well Being: An Exploration of Cognitive-Perceptual Bias

Study 1 was conducted with the intention of identifying common facets of paranormal belief. A composite self-report measure containing items from several existing scales and newly constructed items (haunting/poltergeist activity and extraterrestrials) was produced. Principal component analysis was performed, and a nine factor structure emerged; measuring belief in: Hauntings, Other Life, Superstition, Religious Belief, Alien Visitation, Extrasensory Perception, Psychokinesis, Astrology, and Witchcraft. The analysis suggested that items measuring Alien Visitation and Hauntings should be included within paranormal belief measures.

Study 2 investigated the relationship between belief in extra-terrestrial life, UFOs and paranormal belief. The results revealed that UFO-related beliefs were more highly correlated with paranormal belief than belief in extra-terrestrial life. Partial correlation controlling for the overlap between the two extra-terrestrial related dimensions revealed a series of weak negative correlations between belief in extra-terrestrial life and paranormal belief, and moderate positive correlations between UFO-related beliefs and paranormal belief. These findings indicate that only the more extreme UFO-related beliefs were associated with general paranormal belief.

Study 3 investigated the relationship between cognitive-perceptual measures (schizotypy, transliminality and delusional ideation) and paranormal belief. All three constructs were found to be significantly positively correlated with paranormal belief. Comparisons between participants high and low (above vs. below the median) on each cognitive-perceptual measure revealed that participants above the median demonstrated higher levels of endorsement on each of the paranormal belief subscale measures. Partial correlation and a hierarchical regression, with the predictor variables entered in order of zero-order correlation, revealed the majority of variance within paranormal belief was explained by the cognitive-perceptual factor of schizotypy.

Study 4 employed the dot-probe detection technique to investigate whether participants high in paranormal belief demonstrate a selective attentional bias towards paranormal related words. Level of paranormal belief, schizotypy, delusional ideation and transliminality were not found to affect attentional deployment; no differences were observed between participants scoring high and low on each of the measures. The pattern of results was consistent across factors suggesting that paranormal related stimuli are no more prone to attentional capture than neutral control stimuli.
Published work:

Journal Articles:
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., & Parker, A. (2011). Alien visitation, extra-terrestrial life, and paranormal beliefs. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25(4), 699-720.
Os textos são da exclusiva responsabilidade dos autores
All texts are of the exclusive responsibility of the authors
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., Parker, A., & Munley, G. (2011). Reality Testing, Belief in the Paranormal, and Urban Legends. European Journal of Parapsychology. 21(2), Special. Issue, 182–202.
Dagnall, N., Munley, G., Parker, A., & Drinkwater, K. (2010c). Paranormal Belief, Schizotypy and Transliminality. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 117-143.
Dagnall, N., Parker, A., Munley, G., & Drinkwater, K. (2010a) Common Paranormal Belief Dimensions. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 24, 477-494.
Dagnall, N., Parker A., Munley, G., & Drinkwater, K (2010b). The relationship between belief in extra-terrestrial life, UFOs-related beliefs and paranormal belief. Society for Psychical Research, 74, 1-14.
Conference Presentations:
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., Munley, G., & Parker, A. (2010). The Effect of Paranormal Belief and Cognitive-Perceptual Factors on Mnemonic Performance: An Experimental Investigation. Research Institute Health and Social Change Annual Conference.
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., Munley, G., & Parker, A. (2010), Paranormal Belief and Well Being: An Exploration of Cognitive-Perceptual Bias. 8th Bial Symposium.
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., Munley, G., & Parker, A. (2010). The Effect of Paranormal Belief and Cognitive-Perceptual Factors on Mnemonic Performance: An Experimental Investigation (Poster). Research Institute Health and Social Change Conference.
Dagnall, N., Drinkwater, K., Munley, G., & Parker, A. (2010). The Effect of Paranormal Belief and Cognitive-Perceptual Factors on Mnemonic Performance: An Experimental Investigation (Poster). 8th Bial Symposium.

Area(s) of interest:
Paranormal Belief, Individual Differences, Cognitive-Perceptual Personality Factors
Researchers’ Contacts:
Dr Neil Dagnall –
Dr Andrew Parker –
Dr Gary Munley –
Mr Ken Drinkwater –

Personality and Paranormal Belief: a study among adolescents

A sample of 279 13- to 16-year-old adolescents completed the Short-form Revised Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (JEPQR-S) and a six-item Index of Paranormal Belief. The data demonstrate that neuroticism is fundamental to individual differences in paranormal belief, while paranormal belief is independent of extraversion and psychoticism.
KEY WORDS: Personality, Eysenck, Paranormal religion

In recent years increased interest has been placed on the study of paranormal beliefs among teenagers. For example, Boyd (1996) conducted a study among 506 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 attending non-denominational schools. The data demonstrated that 46% were uncertain whether experimenting in the occult was harmful, one in five (19%) said they had used an ouija board occasionally, and 41% agreed that it was possible to contact spirits of the dead. Francis and Kay (1995) found similar results in their study of over 13,000 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15. The data demonstrated that over one-third (35%) believed in their horoscope, 37% believed in ghosts, and one in five (18%) believed in black magic. The data also demonstrated a positive correlation between belief in supernatural phenomena and age, indicating that older pupils were more likely to believe in paranormal phenomena than younger pupils (pp. 151-163). However, other studies have demonstrated a negative correlation between paranormal belief and age. For example, Preece and Baxter (2000) conducted a study among 2,159 students in years 7 (11- to 12-year-olds), 9 (13- to 14- year-olds) and 11 (15- to 16- year-olds) from 22 schools and 51 trainee teachers participating in the postgraduate certificate of education programme (PGCE). The data demonstrated that levels of scepticism regarding paranormal beliefs became more pronounced among older participants, with the PGCE students being the most sceptical…

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Childhood physical abuse and differential development of paranormal belief systems

New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. New York, New York 10032, USA.

This study compared paranormal belief systems in individuals with and without childhood physical abuse histories. The Revised Paranormal Belief Scale and the Assessing Environments III Questionnaire were completed by 107 University students. Psi, precognition, and spiritualism, which are thought to provide a sense of personal efficacy and control, were among the most strongly held beliefs in abused subjects, and were significantly higher in abused versus nonabused subjects. Superstition and extraordinary life forms, thought to have an inverse or no relation to felt control, were the least strongly held beliefs in abused subjects, and, along with religious beliefs, did not differ between the two abuse groups. Witchcraft was unexpectedly found to be the most strongly held belief among those with abuse histories. Results suggest that by providing a sense of control, certain paranormal beliefs may offer a powerful emotional refuge to individuals who endured the stress of physical abuse in childhood.

Childhood physical abuse and differential development of paranormal belief systems – ResearchGate. Available from:

How psychotic-like are paranormal beliefs?

Background and objectives:

Paranormal beliefs and Psychotic-like Experiences (PLE) are phenotypically similar and can occur in individuals with psychosis but also in the general population; however the relationship of these experiences for psychosis risk is largely unclear. This study investigates the association of PLE and paranormal beliefs with psychological distress.


Five hundred and three young adults completed measures of paranormal beliefs (Beliefs in the Paranormal Scale), psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire), delusion (Peters et al. Delusions Inventory), and hallucination (Launay-Slade Hallucination Scale) proneness.


The frequency and intensity of PLE was higher in believers in the paranormal compared to non-believers, however psychological distress levels were comparable. Regression findings confirmed that paranormal beliefs were predicted by delusion and hallucination-proneness but not psychological distress.


The use of a cross-sectional design in a specific young adult population makes the findings exploratory and in need of replication with longitudinal studies.

The predictive value of paranormal beliefs and experiences for psychosis may be limited; appraisal or the belief emotional salience rather than the belief per se may be more relevant risk factors to predict psychotic risk.


Matteo Cella a,b,*, Marcello Vellantec, Antonio Pretic,d
a Institute of Psychiatry, King’
s College London, London SE5 8AF, UK
b Department of Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, University College London, UK
c Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Cagliari, Italy
d Centro Medico Genneruxi, via Costantinopoli 42, 09129 Cagliari, Italy