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Parapsychology is the study of psychic events. These phenomona involve the exchange of information between a person and their environment, without the use of the five senses. They include extrasensory perception (such as telepathy), influence of mind on matter (psychokinesis), anomalous experiences (such as past life experiences and near death experiences) and apparitions. Such things have been reported for a very long time.
In 2005, Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson said that many scientists are not yet swayed by the evidence for parapsychology and the paranormal. Josephson contends that some scientists feel uncomfortable about ideas such as telepathy and that their emotions sometimes get in the way when making evaluations.
- Telepathy: the transfer of information outside of the five senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste)
- Precognition: transfer of information about the future.
- Clairvoyance: transfer of information about far away places.
- Psychokinesis: the ability of the mind to influence things outside one’s body (matter, time, space or energy)
- Near death experience: the experiencing of the five senses by someone who has died.
- Reincarnation: the rebirth of one’s soul or another aspect of consciousness into another body after death.
- Apparitional Experience: the attribution of physical events to paranormal.
Why people believe
Belief Dependent Realism Theory
Created by psychologist Michael Shermer. It states that the brain makes sense of the world by seeing patterns. Because of this the mind is constantly looking for new patterns to better understand the world. However, sometimes the mind finds patterns where none exist. This is called Paternicity or pareidolia. It is the tendency to find patterns, even when they aren’t really there. When this happens people often view the world through these false patterns.
Heuristics are ways of thinking that conserve mental effort that allow quick decisions about a large amount of information. One problem with heuristics is that they are often wrong.
Types of heuristics
Anchoring and Adjustment is a type of heuristic in which a person makes an educated guess about a question. Then, when that person learns new information they adjust their answer around their original guess. Psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman first discovered this type of heuristic. In one of their first studies on Anchoring and Adjustment they gave divided participants into two groups, gave them one of two problems and asked them to guess the answer.
These two problems were:
1 is the anchor in the first problem and 2 is the anchor in the second problem. The average guess of the group given the first problem (with 1 as the anchor) is much lower than the group given the second problem (with 2 as the anchor). The average guess of the first group was 512 and the average guess of the second group was 2,250. Even though these answers were very different both were very far from the true answer, which was 40,320.
The Availability Heuristic is used when a person answers a question based on how easily instances of an event come to mind. An example would be living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate and overestimating the amount of robberies that take place in the United States every year.
- Jane Henry (2005). Parapsychology: Research on Exceptional Experiences, Routledge, pp. 7-8.
- Michael A. Thalbourne and Lance Storm (2005). Parapsychology in the twenty-first century: essays on the future of psychical research McFarland, pp. 1-2.
- Michael Shermer (2011). The Believing Brain Scientific American
- Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157. (Sep. 27, 1974), pp. 1124-1131.
- The Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
- Institute of Noetic Sciences An organization that supports research in parapsychology, which has a highly scientific and neutral way of researching parapsychology.
- Parapsychological Association An organization of scientists and scholars that study psychic phenomena, affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1969.
- Rhine Research Center A historical parapsychological research center showing the first building ever made for experimental work in parapsychology. The Rhine Research Center is a main place for research and education in Parapsychology.