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Paranormal belief and reasoning

Dagnall, Neil A. and Parker, Andrew and Munley, Gary (2007) Paranormal belief and reasoning. ISSN 0191-8869

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Abstract

This paper examined whether belief in the paranormal is linked to a general weakness in probabilistic reasoning, or whether belief in the paranormal is directly linked to the perception of randomness (misrepresentation of chance). Previous research investigating probabilistic reasoning errors and belief in the paranormal has assessed errors only on a limited number of types of probabilistic reasoning problem. This study used a range of probabilistic reasoning tasks (perception of randomness, use of base rate information, the conjunction fallacy, and the derivation of expected value). Participants were given the four types of probabilistic reasoning problem and were asked to complete the paranormal belief scale (PBS) ([Tobacyk, 1988] and [Tobacyk and Milford, 1983]). The results indicate that only perception of randomness predicted paranormal belief. In addition to this median splits revealed that high and low believers in the paranormal differed only on the ability to correctly answer perception of randomness problems. These results suggest that paranormal belief is not associated with a general weakness in probabilistic reasoning but arises from a specific deficit associated with perception of randomness (misrepresentation of chance).

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