Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Are There Different Cognitive Structures Behind Paranormal Beliefs?

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Are There Different Cognitive Structures Behind Paranormal Beliefs?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Attitudes towards paranormal and other anomalous phenomena frequently find their expression in contradictory positions of extreme agreement and rejection. Differences in the cognitive processing mechanisms may cause these contradictory positions. To examine this hypothesis, an empirical study recorded patterns of justification for paranormal convictions as manifestations of cognitive structures. Therefore, a questionnaire survey and an interview were conducted with 60 adult subjects (30 believers and 30 nonbelievers in the paranormal). The study started from the question, "What kind of cognitive structures behind stated beliefs with regard to the paranormal can be uncovered trough the analysis of subjective theories that persons have formed about the life-long development of their own convictions?" To answer that question, the subjects were asked in a semi-standardized interview (a) for their attitudes (approval vs. rejection) towards selected paranormal and other anomalous phenomena, and (b) for th e justification of their subjective convictions. A qualitative content analysis categorized and analyzed motive variables with reference to (a) the phenomena themselves and (b) the respective judgements on those phenomena. The distribution of the 36 motive categories among the groups of believers and nonbelievers provides first indications of the cognitive structures operating in the subjects who are trying to argue their case. Believers and nonbelievers in the paranormal basically use the very same cognitive structures to substantiate and justify their convictions. All categories are used by both groups under comparison.

A multi-level analysis (CHAID: Chisquare Automatic Interaction Detection) of the linguistic productions demonstrates whether and how the justifications for positive and negative convictions with regard to the selected paranormal phenomena show structural cognitive differences. …

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