A lack of conceptual clarity and multivariate studies has impeded research on paranormal, superstitious, and spirituality. Many studies have explored the ideation of paranormal beliefs, and magical thoughts to mental illness. This paper was initially concerned with a need to interpret of ‘paranormal’ (i.e., statements that are considered little justification in our eastern culture). The study is designed to investigate the student’s beliefs in the paranormal and to cross check the relationship with their cognitive ability (Critical Thinking skills). At the same time, many studies have picked pointed Spirituality/Religion to be one of the main causation of paranormal belief. This assumption is also taken into consideration and a relationship was soon made. For this study paranormal phenomena were defined as events that violate the boundaries of current scientific belief. The first goal of the investigation is to find a relationship between paranormal belief and cognitive ability. Cognitive ability (in this study referred to participants Critical Thinking skills) was found negatively correlated with belief in the paranormal. The relationship between paranormal belief and religiosity was also explored in the investigation. Therefore, the study had two purposes. First, the Paranormal Belief Scale (Tobacyk & Milford, 1983) was used to determine participants belief rate. Second, the cognitive ability was measured using EMI Critical Assessment scale was used. 187 participants from SEGi University, Kota Damansara was used for analysis purpose.
The increasing number of people who have been indulging and believing in the paranormal is peculiarly high, given the lack of scientific proof that’s been provided about this belief. Paranormal phenomena are defined as an event or incident that crosses the boundaries of current scientific belief. Though there has not been any definite scientific proof to validate the claims of paranormal phenomena existing, more than 90 percent of American adults confessed to believing at least one paranormal phenomenon (Gallup, 1997). The scientific community has continuously dismissed the existence of this paranormal ‘world’ and its belief. Many people would point out to their experience personally on what prompted them to belief in the paranormal. It’s been argued that there is a positive correlation between the number of subjective paranormal experiences and the strength of paranormal belief (Glickson, 1990). Most individuals would somewhat argue that some of their paranormal experience is indeed genuine and it happened for real, but then this explanations would be considered cynical in the eyes of science or psychology for that matter. It’s been assumed that this rise in paranormal belief and its teachings rose in the 1960’s with increasing number of parapsychology books in where Ouija boards were deemed more popular than monopoly games (Truzzi, 1972).
Yet with all of this coming to the argument, little research has been done to shed light on the whether the existence of this paranormal belief exists or not. Does seeing equal believing? Or believing equals seeing? Paranormal psychology is one such field in Psychology in where thousands of people are reporting incidents and events every year but at the same time, the credibility of the events are still under the doubt.
In order to discuss ‘paranormal belief’, one must be certain on what are the levels of beliefs are. Schmeidler(1985) stated that 51 percent of respondent reported an experience with ESP as well as a study conducted in 1997 in where more than 50 percent of respondent reported having belief in ghosts and with another research survey done in 1997, 59 percent of the respondent reported belief in the paranormal (Blackmore, 1997). Having into that, a recent Gallup poll has indicated that belief in ghosts, ESP, and extraterrestrials have increased over the last ten years (Newport & Strausberg, 2001).
Nearly most culture that we would have encountered would have its roots traced back to paranormal belief. This culture’s have repeatedly reported to having experiences and experiences related to paranormal phenomena.
Throughout the years, researchers have been trying to find the missing link and evidence that may distinguish believers of the paranormal and the non-believers. One area which interested most psychologists is the possible relationship between religion/spirituality and the effect it has on one’s paranormal beliefs. Researchers have found that religious preference (Fox 1992) and religion orientation (MacDonald 1992) does not correlate with any of the paranormal experience. In a study which was done in 2001, it tried researching on the relationship between religion and paranormal beliefs, researchers found that it was not significantly correlated with belief in the paranormal (Beck & Miller, 2001), yet however Beck & Miller argued that experiences of negative affect such as death of a loved one or someone that has some sort of mental attachment to the deceased would have a higher chance of having belief in the paranormal.
Another area of interest in which researchers have often blamed for the high belief in the paranormal is the media. Television shows such as X-Files and movies such as Men In Black, The Sixth Sense and Transformers have transformed the mentality of the new generation into believing that paranormal phenomena is the new ‘in thing’. Scientist have argued that this form of media have made people to accept paranormal as real and this movies often promotes and exaggerates paranormal experiences in which the audience are made to believe. They promote excessive attention to reports of paranormal experience and by their uncritical acceptance of these paranormal claims (Kurtz, 1985). This argument in where it is assumed that media is influencing the public belief in the paranormal was supported by a study in 1981 where researchers found that the respondents often referred to the stories from the media as their sounder for believing in the paranormal (Alcock, 1981). A 1997 study found that those who often watch shows such as X-Files were likely you have and endorse paranormal beliefs than those who did not watch these programs (Sparks, Nelson and Campbell 1997). But having said that, other studies such as one done in 1997 state that researcher found the total number of watching television has no correlation to the belief in the paranormal (Sparks, et al).
With researchers constantly looking for areas which might end up providing an answer for the belief in the paranormal, most investigators have come across possible social and cognitive differences between believers in the paranormal and non-believers and whether these differences in social and cognitive might be the reason one believe in the paranormal to begin with. Skeptical researchers who often neglect the possibilities of the existence of the paranormal have indicated and concluded that believers in the paranormal are cognitively inferior to disbelievers (Alcock, 1981). Randell and Desrosiers (1980) have argued that the belief in the paranormal is a single cognitive trait in which beliefs in the paranormal being all or nothing. In a study which accessed the differences between believers and non-believers of the paranormal, the level of critical thinking were placed as the variable and both set of group were evaluated. The result showed that there was a negative correlation between critical thinking skills and level of paranormal beliefs (Gray & Mill, 1990). One criticism of that research was that the researchers have used students from the English and Biology departments, which might have skewed the results since it have been assumed that English students were more likely to have believe in the paranormal.
With other cognitive abilities put under the radar to find the relationship between the belief in the paranormal, abilities such as psychic energy, self suffiency and resourcefulness is said to have a positive correlation with belief in the paranormal from a study conducted by Sprinkle in 1998. This group in which Sprinkle based his research is reported to have a higher tendency to question authority and experience more situational conflict. He also reported that these believers tended to have average intelligence assertiveness and reserved thoughts.
In addition, researchers have also deemed to have put respondents through mental tasks to evaluate the relationship. A study conducted in 1985 found that believers in the paranormal made more errors in a syllogistic reasoning test, than did non believers (Wierzbiki, 1985). It has also been said that there is a psychological differences between believers and non believers of the paranormal. Believers in the paranormal is also said to have higher correlation with creativity and sensation seeking (Davis, Peterson & Farley, 1974). Other findings have reported that hypnotic susceptibility (Wagner & Ratzeberg, 1987), and fantasy proneness (Irwin, 1993) has correlation with paranormal beliefs.
Researchers have also looked at demographic such as sex, age, and education level as a variable to explain the level of paranormal beliefs. Studies have indicated that there is a significant difference in the paranormal between genders in where it has been found that females are more prone to believing in the paranormal than males. Blackmore (1997) found that there was a big significant difference between believers and non-believers. Blackmore stated that over 70 percent of the female respondents were believers in the paranormal, compared to 48 percent of the males. When the education level was compared to see if it has an effect on one believing in the paranormal, Henri Broch (2000) reported that a French opinion poll stated that there is a positive relationship between one’s education level and their belief in the paranormal and at the same time, The Princeton Research Association reported survey results arguing that there is no differences in the belief in the paranormal between high school dropouts and non-dropouts.
Having all of this research in mind, one of the often on-going researches about the paranormal beliefs is the relationship between one’s critical thinking skills and their belief in the paranormal (Glickson, 1990).
Saying that, little research has been done in the Asian context. Researchers have often contemplated with researching on paranormal beliefs as the Eastern culture are more prone to infusing paranormal beliefs with religion and are considered less skeptic than the Americans or the Europeans. It is interesting that the results of studies done in Chinese society indicated the more religiously faithful a person was, the less his/her cognitive complexity would be and vice versa. Since education may help increase ones cognitive complexity, it still needs to be verified empirically whether the latter is a mediator between education and religious belief. (Carl Tang , 2005)
Religion plays an integral part on how Eastern culture looks on to the beliefs of on the paranormal. Paranormal beliefs in the eastern culture are almost tip-tied with the notion of religion. Take India or Indonesia, for example. Most of the population belongs to two main religion (Hinduism, Islam); but in both countries there are tribal groups who would perform rituals and practices to latter the witches. (Boyer , 2001). The diversity of paranormal beliefs is not just in the belief system itself but more often than not life in how people look on to the supernatural events and how its derived from the religious belief. For example, Anthropologist has argued that how the concept of reincarnation, which is deemed as ‘paranormal belief’ in the Western context is looked on as more of a religious concept here in the East. Many Buddhists belief that the belief of God, just like humans are caught in a never ending cycle of births and reincarnation. Even religions such as Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, it is clear on the doctrines of each religion that the main point of its religion is the salvation or deliverance of the soul. Many eastern cultures have adapted this religion to their own paranormal belief system. Now, many countries that preach this religion do not take in the point of salvation anymore. Souls do not longer get liberated and often turns into ghosts or ancestors; and rituals are performed to get rid of them after that (Boyer, 2001).
Even Islam dominated countries and cultures have taken into this paranormal belief. In official Islam, there is no God but God; but having said that, many Muslims are terrified of jinn and toyol – spiritualists, ghosts and witches.
When this two different context, both in Western and Eastern culture looks on to its paranormal belief system, one thing is definitely in common. Let it be Africa or America, the notion of believing in the supernatural does have its source. The problem lies in finding out what is. It has to be understood that both of this cultures have looked and interpreted ‘Paranormal’ in two different contexts. Western researches have always looked on the events that cross the boundaries of scientific beliefs and branded them as ‘paranormal’ while such statements in an Eastern context would be laughable. Asian cultures are more into looking at the supernatural events are natural occurrence in accordance to their specific religiosity beliefs.
In both of the cultures, people think that the dead can come back to haunt the living, but this is not universal. In some places, people think that some individuals can communicate with gods or dead people, but again the idea is not defined and agreed everywhere. The concern of this investigation is that when we eventually try to put forward the causation of these paranormal beliefs, it is indeed in the best possible nature that they apply outside our parish.
With all of these unanswered questions on the belief on the paranormal system, the paper tries to find a common denominator that can be used to measure the causation of these events. Can one’s cognitive ability level be the reason of the in level of interest in paranormal belief? Can one’s intellectualism be the reason behind it? The concept of Intellectualism is a simple one. If a phenomenon is common in human experience and people do not have the conceptual means to understand it, then they will try and find some speculative explanation.
At the same time, psychologists argues that people generally are satisfied with the idea of paranormal and often do not indulge in activities that can prove it wrong. For instance, its been a long hold debate on how mysterious it is on the way our minds seems to control our bodies (i.e., the motor coordination), yet there seems to be no act taken to find out a reasoning for this. Why should they? It requires very long time to find the answer. Philosopher Daniel Bennet states that ‘the human psyche is built that it longs for the reassurance or comfort that supernatural ideas seem to provide. (Boyer, 2001)
Immanuel Kant (1844) once stated that our mind is a generally an explanation machine and it constantly tries to answer questions that arises. But then, that would lead to a familiar question, if minds are suppose to be used to explain the notions of this sort of events to occur, then isn’t the idea of supernatural and paranormal belief is the product of the explanation? Kant argues that what people do with their religious concepts and supernatural beliefs is not to explain the universe as it is, and they rather try to get most of the relevant facts under a simple heading.
According to him, most of the explanations that human tend to produce to this supernatural elements are “choosy”. The mind does not try to explain everything and nor that it uses all the information available to explain a certain occurrence. The ‘need-to-get-an-explanation” causes us to come up with any sort of explanation as long as it explains the current state. This inability to inference things and events is often termed as defiance in cognitive ability.
Most incorrect or incoherent claims or concepts are often refuted by the human mind thru experience or logic, but paranormal and supernatural claims are different. People are naturally prone to believing all sorts of strange occurrence. Paranormal concepts are both cheap and sensational to understand, which serves up for rather exciting events. As there isn’t evidence against most paranormal claims, people have no obvious reason to stop believing in them. (Boyer, 2001)
We have noted that there is a connection between one’s critical thinking skills and the levels of their paranormal beliefs. In everyday life and theories that involves one’s cognitive ability and paranormal belief, the connection is impeccable. From a cognitive psychological perspective, an alternative account can be offered. There is evidence indicating that belief in the paranormal may be associated with (low) cognitive ability, although these results are somewhat heterogeneous. Both Messer and Griggs (1989) and Tobaczyk (1984) found that college students with between marks showed less paranormal beliefs. Irwin (1993) reported a significant negative relationship between critical thinking skills and strength of belief in paranormal phenomena. Roe (1999) points out some methodogical weakness in this study, therefore putting the credibility of whether low cognitive ability influences one’s belief in the paranormal into question.
The way of how one’s cognitive ability; in this case their critical thinking skills would be able to influence their belief in the paranormal would eventually lead us to achieving this research’s objectives. The goal of this paper would be to examine how cognitive ability affects one’s paranormal beliefs. To be more specific, the aim would be to review researches that has been done in the past regarding the topic, to find and analyze the limitations of the research and eventually find a way to conceptualize the effect of critical thinking skills and its relationship to paranormal beliefs. Although there has been past studies about the issue, very few has been done in Malaysia, especially in university context.
The population that has been targeted in the present study is aged between 18-25 years old, and according to the research, this set of people is considered as the ‘student category’. In addition, this set of sample is chosen as it’s assumed that they are at a development stage in where critical thinking skills are at its peak. Besides that, the previous studies done by Gray & Mill (1990) were concentrated on students from the United States and not from any Eastern countries, especially Malaysia.
The information derived from this study would also be beneficial to researchers in the Parapsychology field and hopefully it would be a breakthrough. The research is also done bearing in mind the lack of researchers done on the issue on paranormal psychology and this paper would hopefully kick start the first of many more research papers on this issue.
Furthermore, this research paper agree with Roe (1999) that there has been methodogical weakness that has been made in previous studies done on cognitive ability and paranormal beliefs and this research has tried minimizing the possible errors.
A total of 200 participants in the age group of 18-25 were recruited in the present study by using random sampling technique in which upon friend’s invitation and acceptance.
Here are the research objectives in this research;
RO1: Assess the prevalence of respondents paranormal experiences
RO2: Assess the level of cognitive ability (critical thinking skills) of the respondents.
RO3: Examine the relationships between cognitive ability (critical thinking skills) and level of beliefs in the paranormal.
RO4: Examine the relationship between ages, genders, spirituality/religiosity and beliefs in the paranormal.
Here are the research questions in this research:
RQ1: What are the relationship between one’s cognitive ability and their level of beliefs in the paranormal?
RQ2: What are the relationships between one’s age, gender, spirituality/religiosity and their beliefs in the paranormal?
The hypotheses of the study were:
1. Those that have a higher cognitive ability will be less likely to believe in the paranormal than those with a lower cognitive ability.
2. The younger someone is, the higher likely that they would believe in the paranormal.
3. Females would be more likely to believe in the paranormal than males.
4. Those with a belief in the religiosity/spirituality would be more likely to believe in the paranormal than those who don’t.
SUMMARY LIST OF LIMITATION
1. Due to time and financial constraints, there are only 200 participants involved in this study
2. The present study is only conducted in an university context, which means only university students will be examined.
Paranormal Belief System Among Students.
Paranormal beliefs have always been a subject that has been commonly tested on college students. College students belief in paranormal belief is 49% (Biasco & Nunn, 2000). Stories of small creatures have been told in many cultures. Let it be from the Bunians of Malaysia, Scandinavia, Fions of France and the Ihkals of Mexico all somewhat reminds us of the modern day aliens (Randles 1993). It has been estimated that there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy and its been argued that one-tenth of these stars may have planets surrounding them that could sustain intelligent life. The theory that states that there are unknown creaturs such as aliens are debateable
Lewis (1999) stated that college students as in whole believed in angels , NDEs, ESP, ghosts, OBEs, and crop circles were actual or real. They were uncertain of UFOs, aliens, cattle mutilations, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster as being actual or real. Males were found to be significantly more like to have personal expericne with UFO than females and they were more likely to believe in BigFoot and LochNess Monster. Females were significantly more likely to believe that angels, crop circles, and NDEs are actual or real than males(p<.05). ). Respondents’ interest level, spirituality, gender, and personal experience were related to many of the variables, yet these relationships fluctuated from phenomena to phenomena and were not predictive of most beliefs.
Critical Thinking And Paranormal
Wierzbicki (1985) reported that there is a significant correlation between paranormal belief and the number of errors made on a reasoning task. He suggested that believers in psi have a low cognitive ability. Tobacyk (1884) as well as Messer and Griggs (1989) found that students with better marks exhibited less belief in paranormal.
On the other hand, Musch and Ehrenberg (2002) stated a correlation of .50 between the last grade completed by a students and their paranormal belief. However, Irwin (1993) argued that cognitive ability has no relationship with believing in psi. His study (1991) revealed that there is no differences in paranormal beliefs and reasoning ability. In one study (Jones, Russel, & Nickel, 1977), there was even a positive correlation reported between paranormal belief and intelligence.
Besides cognitive ability, other studies such as reasoning skills (Blackmore & Troscianko, 1985; Brugger, Landis, & Regard, 1990; Musch & Ehrenberg, 2002) have been studied to less success in where they have failed to find any sort of relationship. (Blackmore, 1997; Matthews & Blackmore, 1995) and Bressan (2002) though was able to establish a relationship for non-students. They stated that cognitive ability accounted for paranormal beliefs and probabilistic reasoning and Ehrenberg (2002), general cognitive ability accounted for the relationship between paranormal belief and probabilistic reasoning. In their sample, the correlation between probability misjudgement and belief in the paranormal disappeared when cognitive ability was controlled, whereas the aforementioned relationship between general cognitive ability (as measured by last school grade completed) and belief in the paranormal was still very high when probabilistic reasoning skills were controlled (r = .47)
Freud did sharply distinguish the paranormal and religious approaches from scientific thought. He stated that while scientific persons reject credulity per se (e.g., both religion and the paranormal), they simultaneously aver that empirical methods are useful and necessary for investigating credulous phenomena (Freud, 1933b/1966b).
In short, he recognized the content and function of the paranormal phenomena of telepathy as both non-normative and rational
Intelligent or highly educated participants have been shown to have less paranormal belief (e.g., Blum & Blum, 1974; Jahoda, 1970; Killen, Wildman & Wildman, 1974), and this relation did not seem to be accounted for by context effects (Smith, Foster & Stovin, 1998). Moreover, Irwin (1993) contended that no correlation between paranormal belief and intelligence was found from several studies. Musch and Ehrenberg (2002) suggested that general cognitive ability might be a critical underlying variable correlating with paranormal belief and, then, they found general cognitive ability negatively correlated with belief in the paranormal. Nevertheless, intelligence or general cognitive ability correlates with education (Kaufman,1990), which in turn appears to be related to cognitive complexity. According to the Personal Construct Theory proposed by George Kelly and later elaborated further by his student James Bieri, a cognitive complex person has a personal construct system in which the constructs are clearly differentiated, whereas a cognitive simple person has a personal construct system containing constructs that are poorly differentiated (Potkay & Allen, 1986). The measurement of cognitive complexity indicates the degree of differentiation of the personal constructs construed by the participant, that is, the degree of non-overlapping of these constructs. People who had a higher cognitive complexity related positively to their degree of confidence (Adams-Webber, 2003). We suspected that cognitive complexity might be an important predictor of paranormal belief. The effect of cognitive complexity on paranormal belief has yet to be determined.
Religion, Paranormal Belief and Cognitive Ability
The most common Christian religious beliefs – belief in God, the Devil, Heaven and
Hell, and life after death – include category mistakes that confuse core knowledge, so
according to our definition they are part of paranormal beliefs. Because of the different
positions of religious and non-religious paranormal beliefs in our society, and because
of the long-lasted theoretical debate about their relationship (Durkheim, 1915/1964;
Frazer, 1922/1963; Malinowski, 1948/1984; Mauss, 1950/2001), in one study we
analyzed religious beliefs and other paranormal beliefs separately to find out how they
In empirical studies, religious and other paranormal beliefs have been both
positively related (Goode, 2000; Orenstein, 2002; Rudski, 2003; Sjöberg & af
Wåhlberg, 2002) and negatively related or unrelated (MacDonald, 2000; Rice, 2003). A
positive relationship has been proposed by some theorists because both belief types deal
with phenomena that are beyond scientific explanations (a review: Goode, 2000).
The population of students at SEGi University, Kota Damansara at the time of this study was approximately 12,000 students. As there were no specific representation of the students were required, random sampling method were used.
The participants were 200 students, from different background and ethinic prepositions were used for analysis purpose. The make up of the participations consisted of 100 males and 100 females and ranged in from age of 18 to 25 years of age, with a mean of 21.5 years. The overwhelming majority of students participating in this study were of traditional college age (18-25 years old).
Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
A total of 200 full time SEGi University, Kota Damansara students were recruited using the convenient sampling method. Thus, there were no specific time allocated and it dependent on the availability of the participants. The distribution of the questionnaire was held for 3 weeks, from the 6th October to 26th October 2012. As 13 of the questionnaires were deemed invalid due to incomplete survey forms, only 187 forms were used for analysis purpose.
There were three scales that were pre-dominantly used for this questionnaire that was distributed. Content for the questionnaire was developed through analysis of relevant journals and research publications. Items were designed to be understood by college students and consisted of Likert type scales of 5 options. The final instrument contained 64 items on seven pages. The questionnaire included:
*Demographic questions as to the participants’ age and sex , ethinicity and major
â€¢ Religiousity and Spirituality assessment (7 items)
â€¢ EMI Critical Disposition Assesment (26 items) & Paranormal Belief Scale (26 items)
EMI Critical Thinking Disposition Assesment (Moore, Rudd, and Penfi eld (2002)
The EMI represents three constructs of critical thinking disposition. These constructs were derived primarily from the work of Facione (1990). The three constructs were Engagement, Cognitive Maturity and Innovatiness.
Scoring of the EMI
Each of the 26 EMI constructs is measured on a five points Likert Scale and 1 representing “Strongly Agree” and 5 representing “Strongly Disagree”. Scores for engagement, cognitive maturity and innovatiness were independently calculated by summing the points obtained from an individual’s responses. To calculate the overall critical thinking disposition score, simply sum an individual’s responses from 26 items.
Paranormal Belief Scale (Toabyck, 1998)
The PBS provides a separate score on each of seven factorial derived subscales, with each subscale reflecting a major dimension of paranormal belief. The PBS subscales are Traditional Religious Belief, Psi, Witchcraft, Superstition, Spiritualism, Extraordinary
Life Forms, and Precognition. Respondents indicate degree of belief for each of 26 items by using a fivepoint rating scale, with 1 representing “Strongly Agree” and 5 representing “Strongly Disagree”
A cover letter describing the research, requesting the students’ participation, and the questionnaire were approved by the research advisor was distributed to the participants. Futher more, participants were approached with an initial question on whether they are available to do the questionnaires before proceeding to the next step. Then, they were offered a consent form together with letter of participations before they were allowed to proceed with the questioanire.
The statistical software that was used to analyse the data was SPSS (Statiscal Package for the Social Sciences)
Results and Discussion
Rate of Response