Paranormal Beliefs, psychokinesis, Hauntings, and Clairvoyance, What’s The Connection? The majority of findings from 71 studies examining the relationship between belief in paranormal phenomena and cognitive function support the hypothesis that such beliefs are associated with cognitive differences or deficits. On May 4, Charlotte E. Dean and colleagues from the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, published this analysis in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers have investigated potential connections between cognitive functioning and belief in paranormal phenomena such as psychokinesis, hauntings, and clairvoyance for several decades. However, approximately 30 years have passed since the last non-systematic review of this literature. To provide current insights into the findings and quality of studies on this topic, Dean and colleagues identified and evaluated 70 published studies and one unpublished doctoral dissertation published between 1980 and 2020.
The 71 studies investigated a variety of cognitive functions, including reasoning ability, style of thinking, and memory. The findings support the hypothesis that beliefs in paranormal phenomena are associated with cognitive function differences or deficits. For instance, a particularly consistent correlation was discovered between paranormal beliefs and an intuitive way of thinking.
The review found that the majority of the 71 studies were of high methodological quality and that this quality has increased over time; for example, the majority of the studies had clear objectives and appropriate study designs. However, certain areas for improvement were identified. For example, many studies lacked a discussion of their own methodological limitations, and a large proportion of study participants were undergraduates, suggesting that the findings may not necessarily apply to the general population.
The authors note that no specific profile of cognitive functioning among supernatural believers has emerged from the available research. They suggest that future research should not only address the methodological flaws they identified, but also investigate the possibility that paranormal beliefs are associated with a more pervasive cognitive difference, which could help explain why previous studies have found associations with seemingly disparate forms of cognitive dysfunction.
The authors add, “Four decades of research suggests that belief in the paranormal is linked to cognitive flexibility and fluid intelligence; however, methodological improvements in future research are necessary to advance our understanding of the relationship.”
Materials provided by PLOS