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The True Believers

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Why do we believe in God, resurrection, UFOs, clairvoyants and alternative medicines?

By Krissy Wilson

Are we pre-programmed to believe in weird and wonderful things that lack any significant scientific basis, and are some of us more likely to believe than others?

Krissy Wilson is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Tasmania. This is an extended version of an article that appeared in The Skeptic.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Unwavering belief in phenomena that contradict known scientific laws and principles is a common feature of all western societies, and there is little evidence to suggest that widespread paranormal beliefs are on the wane. While there remains little, if any, evidence to suggest that any of these claims support known, provable phenomena, recent opinion polls suggest that such commonly held beliefs are on the increase.

In America, for example, polls typically report increases in popular beliefs such as ghosts, witches, psychic healing and telepathy. A similar pattern emerges when examining the results of a recent Reader’s Digest nationwide survey , which revealed that 52% of the respondents claim to have seen a ghost while 68% claim to be able to “sense” that someone is looking at them.

Yet, mainstream psychology has largely neglected the area of human belief until relatively recently. Parapsychology, on the other hand, has spent the past 100 years or so, somewhat unsuccessfully, attempting to prove that psychic forces exist.

With newly emerging interest in the field of anomalistic psychology, however, researchers are exploring a more skeptical approach. Not primarily interested in proving or disproving the existence of these phenomena, anomalistic psychology is concerned with psychological and in some cases physiological reasons for why so many of us...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.