Spooky Science: Paranormal Beliefs Linked to Fearful Worldview

Nov 3, 2015

by Elizabeth Palermo

People who believe in ghosts may be more afraid of actual, real-world dangers — things like violent crimes or nuclear war — than are people who don’t hold paranormal beliefs, a new survey finds.

The Survey of American Fear asked people in the United States to divulge the terrors that keep them up at night. For the survey, nearly 1,500 participants responded to questions about 88 different fears and anxieties, ranging from commonplace phobias (like fear of heights) to less tangible concerns (like fear of government corruption). The survey also asked participants about their beliefs concerning paranormal and mythical things, like ghosts, Bigfoot and ancient aliens.

“The reason we ask [about paranormal things] on the survey is that we’re interested in finding out what kind of clusters of beliefs tend to be associated with fear,” Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University in California and leader of the second annual Fear Survey, told Live Science. [What Really Scares People: Top 10 Phobias]

Last year in the survey, researchers asked questions that gauged the respondents’ scientific reasoning. This was done to find out how the individuals’ knowledge of scientific ideas (how electricity works, why the sun sets in the west, etc.) related to those respondents’ fears. But this year, the focus was on supernatural beliefs, not scientific ones.

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4 comments on “Spooky Science: Paranormal Beliefs Linked to Fearful Worldview

  • Oh Gawd, Americans again. Is this a product of religion?
    My sleep deprivation is caused by
    1. Republicans winning in 2016
    2. Christians controlling the government.
    3. Right wing terrorists
    I haven’t met any Bigfoots or Aliens or Ghosts. I’m sure I’ve met some of the above.

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  • And there was me thinking that believing in the supernatural was caused by an excessive amount of sawdust where the brain should be. The survey apparently agrees with me though in that lack of education, and by inference your general run of the mill genetic stoopidity, increases belief in things that don’t really exist. The ability of homo sapiens sapiens to believe utter nonsense is perhaps the most baffling thing to me I’ve ever encountered.

    I lived at my last house for 25 years and stayed in occasional contact with the people I bought it from all that time. The husband was an electrical design engineer of some sort and not totally devoid of grey matter as far as I’d always thought. It wasn’t until after I’d sold up and moved again that he thought it safe to ask me if I’d ever encountered the poltergeist there, something the estate agent’s particulars had failed to mention 25 years previously! He went on to explain that when he lived there he’d heard the occasional unexplained noise and creaking floorboards when no one else was around. I opined that this was probably caused by unexplained noises and creaking floorboards and that the supernatural was hardly called for given that no such things can possibly exist. He became quite indignant. I never phoned back again.

    An American friend and former girlfriend who is otherwise as rational as anyone I’ve met believes in fortune tellers and “psychic” mediums. I tried to explain about cold reading techniques that Derren Brown for example has gone into in great detail in his programs exposing such charlatans but to little avail. We just went round and round and finally back to the good old “well I choose to believe there’s something in it, so there, neener neener” which appears to be at the root of all religious and other wooish nonsense. It was a massive disappointment to me but it was either drop the topic or fall out. I sympathise with people whose family members are religious though and the futility of arguing with such irrationality.

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  • Why is the USA such a spectactularly fearful place? Its entertainment industry thrives on it. Its not just the spooky nonsense of judgement day, zombies, communists, cataclysms, conspiracies, hauntings and the like, it is the abiding fear that any attempt to sweeten unlucky lives with safety nets will see mass thefts by the underclass, that a government can only become a kleptocracy, that an astonishingly high number of their citizens are so dangerous they must be locked up and their lives effectively cancelled.

    American education isn’t the worst. Its tertiary education has some of the best examples anywhere.

    The problem is perhaps rather a lack of trust with their New World.

    Its funny how they don’t seem to panic enough over the real walking dead haunting their streets and their media and the halls of power. PZombies drained of humanity. The Religious Right.

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  • I seem to remember (30 years ago?) a skeptic pretended to be a psychic. He made predictions based on statistics, something like “in the month of January there will be a major plane crash from a company or nation with red in its flag”… something that was reasonably likely to happen statistically. Make enough such predictions and some will be correct.

    When this prediction and some others came true (and some didn’t), he was welcomed into the woo-woo society — until he came out and explained how he did it.
    Some of them responded by saying that he was a psychic, and a good one, and just didn’t know it!

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