Personality Correlates of Paranormal Belief: Locus of Control and Sensation Seeking

By Groth-Marnat, Gary; Pegden, Julie-Ann | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Personality Correlates of Paranormal Belief: Locus of Control and Sensation Seeking


Groth-Marnat, Gary, Pegden, Julie-Ann, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


In order to more fully understand the relationship between paranormal belief, locus of control, and sensation seeking, 81 undergraduate university students were administered the Paranormal Belief Scale (PBS), Rotter's Locus of Control Scale, and the Sensation Seeking Scale. Results indicated that a greater external locus of control was associated with greater overall number of paranormal beliefs. Greater external locus of control was especially associated with the PBS subscales of spirituality and precognition. Contrary to expectations, belief in superstition was associated with a greater internal locus of control. Whereas overall sensation seeking was not related to overall PBS scores, the PBS subscales of greater belief in psi phenomena and superstition were found to be associated with higher levels of sensation seeking. Results are discussed in relation to conceptualizations of the different personality/belief constructs.

Research into paranormal belief may give greater insight into the nature of paranormal phenomena, as well as into the type of person who believes in and/or experiences paranormal events. For example, paranormal belief was found to relate to frequency of disturbing dreams, dream recall and dream interpretation (Irwin,1985), religiosity (Irwin, 1985), neuroticism (Windholz & Diament, 1974, cited in Irwin, 1993), creativity (Irwin, 1993), dissociation (Irwin, 1994; Ross & Joshi, 1992), hypnotic susceptibility (Council & Huff, 1990; Thalbourne, 1995; Wagner & Ratzburg,1987; Wickramasekera,1989) and fantasy proneness (Wilson & Barber, 1983). Some of the above research suggests that paranormal belief may serve to reduce anxiety, for example by dissociating anxiety-provoking thoughts related to death and replacing them with belief systems conducive to immortality (Schumaker, 1990).

The relationship between locus of control and paranormal belief has been investigated and a more external locus of control has usually been related to greater paranormal belief (Tobacyk & Milford, 1983; Allen & Lester, 1994; Thalbourne et al., 1995). Scheidt (1973) claims that these variables are related because those with an external locus of control believe that life circumstances depend on external determinants and paranormal phenomena usually constitute external determinants. However, Tobacyk, Nagot and Miller (1988) note that the relationship with locus of control depends on the type of paranormal belief. Specifically, they found that greater personal efficacy control was associated with less belief in superstition and witchcraft and greater interpersonal control was found to be associated with less belief in superstition. Other categories of paranormal belief (traditional religious belief, spiritualism, extraordinary life forms) did not seem to be associated with locus of control. Sensation seeking and paranormal belief are conceptually related in that paranormal beliefs may provide excitement for those who seek greater stimulation than others. This is supported by Kumar, Pekala and Cummings' (1993) finding that greater overall sensation seeking scores and specifically, greater thrill and adventure seeking and experience seeking, were associated with greater paranormal belief as well as a greater number of reported paranormal experiences. In contrast, Tobacyk and Milford (1983) did not find a relationship between sensation seeking and paranormal belief.

Thalbourne (1995) states that individual differences in paranormal belief need further investigation and existing findings need to be verified. The present study set out to replicate research on the relationship between reported paranormal belief and measures of locus of control and sensation seeking. It was hypothesized that a more external locus of control and greater sensation seeking would both be associated with greater belief in paranormal phenomena.

METHOD

Eighty one female and nine male students (N = 90) from an introductory psychology class voluntarily participated. …

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