PDF An Introduction to the Psychology of Paranormal Belief and Experience

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Read an extract from The Psychology of Paranormal Belief. Dr Harvey J Irwin has an international reputation in research on the psychology of paranormal beliefs and parapsychological experiences. His other publications include over a hundred papers in academic journals and three books, including the highly praised and widely used text An Introduction to Parapsychology. Dr Irwin was a member of the School of Psychology in the University of New England, Australia for over 30 years, teaching a variety of courses from parapsychology to psychopathology, and serving as Head of School for some years.

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Since his recent formal retirement from academia he has remained active in research and remains an Honorary Research Fellow in his former university. In the Parapsychological Association accorded Dr Irwin its Outstanding Research Contribution Award in recognition of his empirical and theoretical work in parapsychology over 25 years. Contact us at UH Press if you have any queries or would like to find out more about this book. More about the book Following a discussion of the concept of paranormality, four main theoretical approaches to the nature of paranormal belief are examined.

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Harvey J Irwin Dr Harvey J Irwin has an international reputation in research on the psychology of paranormal beliefs and parapsychological experiences. Magic in Theory. An insignificant result at a 0. However, with large sample sizes chi-square typically over-rejects good fitting models Tanaka, This occurs because chi-square is directly proportional to sample size, independent of the strength of the relationship between the variables.

Accordingly, it is advisable to consider chi-square alongside other absolute fit indices Hooper et al. CFI was included as a measure of incremental or relative fit. These indices compare the observed chi-square value to a baseline model. In this context, CFI is less sensitive to sample size. CFI assumes that all latent variables are uncorrelated null model and compares the sample covariance matrix with this null model. CFI values above 0. Belief in the paranormal and UL were most strongly associated with the cognitive-perceptual and disorganized factors of schizotypy.

Prior to testing structural models, measurement scales were evaluated using research-informed solutions. The UL Dagnall et al. The SPQ-B contains three factors: cognitive-perceptual, disorganized and interpersonal Raine and Benishay, , although analysis excluded the interpersonal factor because it correlated weakly with only one belief measure TPB. This finding was consistent with recent research demonstrating that the two-factor RPBS model yields marginal or unacceptable fit Dagnall et al.

Byrne contends that correlating within-item errors is permissible if a clear rationale exists. In the current study, the approach was valid because item combinations were consistent with subscales belonging to the original seven-factor RPBS solution Tobacyk, , specifically traditional religious belief items 8 and 22 , precognition items 7 and 14 and psi items 2, 9, and Despite risking capitalization on chance MacCallum et al.


Capitalization on chance occurs when the characteristics of a sample influence the modifications performed and consequently, fail to generalize to other samples or the population. This finding was consistent with the lack of consensus pertaining to the underlying structure of RT.

In addition, Ellison and Levy reported poor understanding of IPO psychometric properties and noted that a satisfactory solution currently does not exist. Accordingly, performance of exploratory factor analysis EFA with oblique promax rotation recommended an appropriate model. Byrne advocates EFA when no strong conceptual underpinning is present.

Identification of factors was consistent with the theoretical underpinnings of RT deficits Bell et al. Factors rotated obliquely in EFA and strong inter-factor correlations existed between 0. Subsequently, structural analyses used this model. Overall, UL and schizotypy possessed factor solutions congruent with supporting theory.

The appropriateness of these factorial solutions can be further determined by examining parameter estimates. Factor loadings were positive and statistically significant. The majority of items possessed factor loadings greater than 0. For latent modeling, traditional measures of internal reliability e. For this reason, composite reliability is preferred.

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Composite reliability provides a more rigorous measure of internal consistency, with values above 0. Cognitive-perceptual reported composite reliability below 0. Model 1: relationships of cognitive-perceptual and disorganized schizotypy factors with traditional paranormal belief and urban legends ULs.

It is unclear why disorganized demonstrated a significant negative effect, but it is likely due to a confounding effect. Disorganized demonstrated a positive relationship with NAP once the cognitive-perceptual path was fixed to zero.

The Psychology of Paranormal Belief | University of Hertfordshire Press

Overall, the analysis supported the superior effect of cognitive-perceptual on NAP. Model 4: relationships of reality testing with new age philosophy and urban legends. Model comparison based on respective fit indices and predictive power indicated that schizotypy Model 1 and 2 and RT models Model 3 and 4 fitted well.

Reality testing explained a marginally greater amount of variance in UL, whilst schizotypy explained more variance in paranormal beliefs. Partial correlation supported this conclusion. Cognitive-perceptual and RT related differentially to endorsement of ULs and belief in the paranormal. Considering, ULs first. In the case of belief in the paranormal, controlling for measure contribution reduced correlation size but relationships remained significant.

Proneness to RT deficits and the cognitive-perceptual factor of schizotypy strongly predicted endorsement of anomalistic beliefs ULs and belief in the paranormal. This finding supported the view that cognitive-perceptual characteristics connected to positive schizotypy i.

Generally, results were consistent with previous research reporting positive associations between proneness to RT deficits and corroboration of unconventional beliefs ULs and the paranormal Drinkwater et al. Contrastingly, the disorganized and interpersonal aspects of schizotypy demonstrated only weak and negligible mainly non-significant relationships respectively. These outcomes were congruent with the supposition that disorganized and interpersonal factors do not contribute directly to the formation of paranormal beliefs Hergovich et al.

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This relationship represented conceptual overlap and marked intuitive-experiential thinking style as an attendant feature of positive schizotypy. Inspection of cognitive-perceptual characteristics and previous investigations support this notion. Specifically, studies report a link between referential thinking, the tendency to find self-relevant meaning within random events, and belief in the paranormal King and Hicks, However, there are important issues to consider when applying and interpreting findings based on dual-processing models. Dual accounts of cognitive functioning and personality provide a conceptual framework for explaining individual differences in information processing style.

The existence of two parallel, but interacting modes of cognition analytical-rational and experiential-intuitive offers a cogent framework in which to interpret reasoning inconsistencies. Emergent finding though, must acknowledge the existence of varying features and properties within individual dual-processing models.

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Within CEST, cognitive style denotes a preference for rational or intuitive processing. Cognitive-Experiential Self-Theory shares important parallels with cognitive, dual-processing frameworks that differentiate between controlled and automatic processing. These delineate the rational system as slow, effortful and demanding of attention, whilst the intuitive system is automatic, fast and non-conscious Epstein, Despite apparent similarities, the terminology employed is not directly comparable.

In particular, CEST is characterized by features that go beyond those typically considered by equivalent dual-process cognitive models, or frameworks.

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For instance, the notion that the experiential system is emotional and holistic is specific to CEST Epstein, In addition, unlike dual-process cognitive accounts, CEST includes an unconscious system analogous to that outlined in psychoanalysis Epstein, With reference to CEST and the findings of the present study, cognitive-perceptual measures were highly correlated. This reflected the fact that they assessed a broader range of constructs than those typically captured by the traditional controlled and automatic processing distinction.

Consequently, inter measure correlations may represent also variations within the dimensions of rational-experiential thought. This supposition is consistent with previous work, which denotes difficulties associated with interpreting and comparing dual-process model findings. Particularly, definitions between models vary and often lack precision.