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

The Ghostwatch Hysteria

In October 1992  BBC Television aired a program called Ghostwatch, which it claimed to be a live investigation into supernatural activity at a private home in London. What started out as a normal episode turned frightful when a malevolent spirit attacked the investigators and manifested  in the BBC television studio. A terrified reporter went on air and warned that by airing the investigation on live television they have created a “massive seance,” which unleashed the spirit onto the whole of the UK. There was a tremendous reaction by the viewing audience. Many viewers phoned the police in panic. But alas there was no ghost on the loose. In fact the program wasn’t even live. It had been recorded months before it aired.

Here is the show that aired on Halloween night 1992

Read more here: http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/ghostwatch

Visions and Voices – Paranormal or Psychotic?

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by  Michael J. Baker

A belief in the existence of paranormal phenomena is quite common these days. It’s certainly not difficult to find television shows, movies or books touting some sort of paranormal theme nor is it hard to find alleged witnesses to these strange  occurrences. However some paranormal beliefs share a distinct similarity to symptoms of psychosis. For example, mediumistic communication with the dead is starkly similar to hallucinatory symptoms found in patients with acute Schizophrenia. For those experiencing this psychosis, communication with beings not seen by their peers  can be a common occurrence. These beings can appear as one personality or many. They may appear intermittently or continuous. They may manifest as a constant whispering or they may converse directly. All of these traits have not only been historically described by patients suffering from Schizophrenia, but also by mediums in their descriptions of their esoteric communications. This begs the question; Are paranormal witnesses simply suffering from some form of psychosis? or is there an element that adequately differentiates the mediumistic experience from the psychotic?

In the public eye, religious or non religious, there seems to be a greater tendency  to process fortean claims without an implied psychological label. A larger segment of the population  in general has historically been more accepting of astonishing claims when presented in a spiritual context as opposed to secular. But why?  What separates the hallucination and delusions of a psychotic experience from the visions and experiences that are described by those claiming to witness paranormal phenomena; and are the two related?

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry suggested that paranormal believers may not only have cognitive biases similar to those observed in psychotic patients but also problems related to thinking clarity (Lawrence & Peters, 2004; Yorulmaz, Inozu, & Gültepe, 2011). Reasoning abnormalities appear to play a causal role in the formation of unusual beliefs. Additionally cognitive bias, which is our tendency to deviate from rational thinking in support of our beliefs, may represent soft signs of a neurological defect known as the schizoid taxon (Meehl, 1962, 1989) and those biases may in-fact be preliminary indicators of a psychotic risk.  While these findings may outwardly suggest that a paranormal experience is an early indicator of a potential psychosis it should be noted that some authors are suggesting that the mere presence of paranormal belief should not be considered a reliable indicator. In other words, having a paranormal experience doesn’t “necessarily” imply an underlying psychosis.

Dr. J.T. Wigman from the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at the University of Utrecht, believes that claims of paranormal experiences are typically associated with much lower levels of psychological distress and may be independent of psychosis. (Wigman et al., 2011)   He suggests that a possible way to improve the predictive value of unusual beliefs and experiences for psychosis risk may involve the consideration of associated cognitive features, idiosyncratic thinking styles, the role of belief appraisal, and the associated distress  (Cella, Cooper, Dymond, & Reed, 2008; Garety & Hemsley, 1994; Preti & Cella, 2010 a).

While a definitive causal link between psychosis and claims of paranormal phenomena may remain elusive it’s important to understand that the sources of anomalous phenomena may still potentially be psychological in nature.  Numerous cognitive biases can have adverse effects on how the human mind processes experiences and these “thinking errors” can prevent individuals from accurately understanding reality even when presented with sufficient data and evidence to form an accurate view. Various mood disorders and medications can also affect our interpretation of the outside world and unfortunately, just knowing about these obstacles doesn’t necessarily free us from their effects.

Sources

Lawrence, E., & Peters, E. R. (2004). Reasoning in believers in the paranormal. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 192, 727 e 733

Yorulmaz, O., Inozu, M., & Gültepe, B. (2011). The role of magical thinking in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder symptoms and cognitions in an analogue sample. Journal of Behavioural Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42,198 e 203

Meehl, P. E. (1962). Schizotaxia, schizotypy, schizophrenia. American Psychologist, 17, 827 e 838.

Wigman, J. T., Vollebergh, W. A., Raaijmakers, Q. A., Iedema, J., van Dorsselaer, S., Ormel, J., et al. (2011). The structure of the extended psychosis phenotype in early adolescence d A cross-sample replication.

Schizophrenia Bullettin, 37, 850 e 860

Cella, M., Cooper, A., Dymond, S. O., & Reed, P. (2008). The relationship between dysphoria and proneness to hallucination and delusions among young adults. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 49,544 e 550

Garety, P. A., & Hemsley, D. R. (1994). Delusions: Investigations into the psychology of delusional reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Preti, A., & Cella, M. (2010b). Randomized controlled trials in people at ultra high risk of psychosis: a review of treatment effectiveness. Schizophrenia Research, 123,30 e 36

(n.d.). Symptoms of schizophrenia. Retrieved from Living with Schizophrenia website: http://www.livingwithschizophreniauk.org/symptoms-of-schizophrenia/

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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Effects of Social Influence and Persuasion on Paranormal Beliefs

Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research
2008, Vol. 3

In the last decade scholars have unexpectedly found that beliefs in the paranormal were not significantly lower in college students vs. the general population. This research has produced a lot of controversy and concern regarding the student’s education level and reasoning skills. To investigate further, the current experiment analyzed the relationship between media and social influence and college students’ beliefs concerning the paranormal. In contrast to previous research, no differences in beliefs were supported as a function of media or social influence. Potential reasons for the lack of significant results are discussed and proposals for future studies are offered.

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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

Abstract
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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