Loss of Control Increases Belief in Precognition and Belief in Precognition Increases Control


Katharine H. Greenaway*, Winnifred R. Louis, Matthew J. Hornsey
The University of Queensland, School of Psychology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Every year thousands of dollars are spent on psychics who claim to “know” the future. The present research questions why, despite no evidence that humans are able to psychically predict the future, do people persist in holding irrational beliefs about precognition? We argue that believing the future is predictable increases one’s own perceived ability to exert control over future events. As a result, belief in precognition should be particularly strong when people most desire control–that is, when they lack it. In Experiment 1 (N = 87), people who were experimentally induced to feel low in control reported greater belief in precognition than people who felt high in control. Experiment 2 (N = 53) investigated whether belief in precognition increases perceived control. Consistent with this notion, providing scientific evidence that precognition is possible increased feelings of control relative to providing scientific evidence that precognition was not possible. Experiment 3 (N = 132) revealed that when control is low, believing in precognition helps people to feel in control once more. Prediction therefore acts as a compensatory mechanism in times of low control. The present research provides new insights into the psychological functions of seemingly irrational beliefs, like belief in psychic abilities.

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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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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


Disgusting things can induce unethical behavior – How does this affect personal testimony in paranormal research?


According to a study conducted by marketing experts at Rice University, Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University, feelings of disgust can have a powerful (and involuntary) impact on ethical behavior, increasing the likelihood that an individual may lie or cheat. Of course this involuntary response may have impacts in all facets our lives, but how does this affect the testimony of individuals purporting paranormal activity? Many paranormal investigators do take note of a claimant’s home environment, but traditionally it has been to either establish the quality of home life or the general habits of the homes occupants. Perhaps the level of cleanliness in a home, may present a need for greater caution in accepting a persons claim regarding fantastical activity, including that of team members who were witness to unkempt conditions.

Personally I have investigated several homes that were far past the border of filthy, the idea of those conditions affecting the testimony of my team never crossed my mind, but perhaps it is something to consider going forward. According to the research, inducing thoughts of cleanliness will mitigate the unethical impulses brought on by the disgusted feelings. Perhaps it’s best to conduct interviews about a homes activity in cleaner locations and for all team members to restrain from comments or claims until a more suitable location for deposition is available. Sound crazy? Well according to the research (which was just repeated this past month) the phenomena of unethical choices in response to disgusting encounters is a very real condition and we may benefit from the awareness.

“As an emotion, disgust is designed as a protection,” said Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself. People become focused on ‘self’ and they’re less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur: If I’m disgusted and more focused on myself and I need to lie a little bit to gain a small advantage, I’ll do that. That’s the underlying mechanism.”

In turn, the researchers found that cleansing behaviors actually mitigate the self-serving effects of disgust. “If you can create conditions where people’s disgust is mitigated, you should not see this (unethical) effect,” Mittal said. “One way to mitigate disgust is to make people think about something clean. If you can make people think of cleaning products — for example, Kleenex or Windex — the emotion of disgust is mitigated, so the likelihood of cheating also goes away. People don’t know it, but these small emotions are constantly affecting them.”

Vikas co-authored the paper with Karen Page Winterich, an associate professor of marketing at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, and Andrea Morales, a professor of marketing at Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business. It will be published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

The researchers conducted three randomized experiments evoking disgust through various means. The study involved 600 participants around the United States; both genders were equally represented. In one experiment, participants evaluated consumer products such as antidiarrheal medicine, diapers, feminine care pads, cat litter and adult incontinence products. In another, participants wrote essays about their most disgusting memory. In the third, participants watched a disgusting toilet scene from the movie “Trainspotting.” Once effectively disgusted, participants engaged in experiments that judged their willingness to lie and cheat for financial gain. Mittal and colleagues found that people who experienced disgust consistently engaged in self-interested behaviors at a significantly higher rate than those who did not.

In another set of experiments, after inducing the state of disgust on participants, the researchers then had them evaluate cleansing products, such as disinfectants, household cleaners and body washes. Those who evaluated the cleansing products did not engage in deceptive behaviors any more than those in the neutral emotion condition.

“At the basic level, if you have environments that are cleaner, people should be less likely to feel disgusted,” Mittal said. “If there is less likelihood to feel disgusted, there will be a lower likelihood that people need to be self-focused and there will be a higher likelihood for people to cooperate with each other.”

Mittal said the deeper meaning of the study’s finding is that these powerful emotions can be triggered by various innocuous-sounding things when people are reading the newspaper or listening to the radio. “What we found is that unless you ask people, they often don’t know they’re feeling disgusted,” Mittal said. “Small things can trigger specific emotions, which can deeply affect people’s decision-making. The question is how to make people more self-aware and more thoughtful about the decision-making process.”

What are your thoughts?

Journal Reference:

  1. Karen Page Winterich, Vikas Mittal, Andrea C. Morales. Protect thyself: How affective self-protection increases self-interested, unethical behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2014; 125 (2): 151 DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2014.07.004

Rice University. “Disgust leads people to lie and cheat; Cleanliness promotes ethical behavior.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113123316.htm>.

The New & Improved Paraphysics – 1996

Research Item – http://qpsychics.com/

The etymology of the word Paraphysics is quite interesting as is the history of paraphysics itself. The word seems to have been coined in the late nineteenth century by the German psychiatrist and psychical researcher Baron Albert F. von Schrenck-Notzing, (Beal in Mitchell, p.486) so it dates from the same era as the word parapsychology. But its modern usage is not nearly as wide as the word parapsychology. For example, parapsychology is well defined and can be found in any standard dictionary or encyclopedia. The history of the word parapsychology can be found in many general books on the subject or encyclopedias dedicated to parapsychology and/or the paranormal as well as standard dictionaries and encyclopedias. The popularity of the term parapsychology and its general acceptance as the name of a field of science, although that acceptance has been given begrudgingly by some scientists and other scholars, no doubt stems from the seminal work done by Joseph B. Rhine in the 1930’s and thereafter. Many other scientists have followed the path paved by Rhine and added tremendously to the field.

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Paranormal Illusions – Reality Check


The image above appears to be moving, but you know it isn’t. It’s a trick of the brain called the peripheral drift illusion. Many people have seen this and have no problem accepting that the image isn’t really moving.

The image below is caused by the same peripheral shifting of the brain and makes it appear as though the white dots are changing into black dots randomly between the corners of each of the squares. Of course you know they aren’t.


It’s not hard to identify images like these as illusions and accept that our brain isn’t perfect and has truly been fooled – even when we are consciously aware that is not real.  The sites that display images such as these openly profess they are illusions.  Yet we can’t stop our brain from seeing the wrong thing.

If we can accept the fallibility of our brain regarding these images, why then is it so hard to accept that our brain can be wrong in so many other instances such as hearing words in random background noise or faces in window reflections?  The effect of “paraedolic” anthropomorphism has been demonstrated and proven time and time again.  But yet, there are so many people who adamantly insist that what they are seeing or hearing is real…not an illusion.  They insist their mind could not be the culprit behind the anomalies that present themselves in such mundane and non-informative ways.

The reason for this adamant denial is sourced from yet another psychological effect called cognitive bias.  Our brains tendency to “assemble” information that aligns with our desires or beliefs and any idea or bit of information that doesn’t align is sharply rejected.  Often to the point of irrational anger.

As humans (living animals) we rely on our senses and brain for all of our knowledge and experiences. It was our perceptions and critical thinking process that allowed us to speak and understand. It taught us to walk and eat and fend for ourselves. We have no choice but to trust the validity of our own mind and senses… especially when it regards something near and dear to our heart or something into which we have staunchly invested our interest.  Let’s face it, our brain is our only interface to the outside world. It’s not a pleasant experience to conceive its fallible nature.

That being said, it only stands to reason that when a concept or opinion is presented that challenges not only our mind but our beliefs and wants as well (regardless of how logical it may seem), the default reaction is a sharp and swift dismissal.  Be careful. While the cause of a stubborn, non-objective opinion in response to seemingly anomalous phenomena may seem a natural condition of our psyche, it is dangerous to our growth as an intelligent race.  Every “patriotic” defense of an unsubstantiated perspective is a truth left undiscovered and a hindrance of progress.

Next time you see a face in a window reflection or hear your name being called in the heavy background noise of a poor recording, just stop and think for a moment. What seems more likely? That your easily fooled brain has done it again or some mysterious inter-dimensional being is trying to communicate with you through a bad photograph or poor recording


Time-Reversed Human Experience – 2000

Research Item – http://www.boundaryinstitute.org

This paper reviews four classes of experimental evidence for time-reversed effects in human experience, examples of phenomena discussed in conventional scientific disciplines that bear a resemblance to time-reversed effects, and a new experiment that distinguishes between information flowing forwards vs. backwards in time. One implication of the cumulative evidence is that time – reversed effects permeate all aspects of human behavior. Another is that experiments in all scientific disciplines may be vulnerable to time -reversed influences, including studies based on gold-standard techniques like double-blind, randomized protocols. A third implication is that teleology, once taboo in science, deserves to be seriously reconsidered as another form of causation..

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