Department of Psychology
Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology
Belief in parapsychological/paranormal phenomena is widespread in the American public (Gallup & Newport, 1991). Messer and Griggs (1989) reported that misinformation through the media, including uncritical reports of events and pseudodocumentaries about paranormal phenomena, is a possible reason for the substantial belief in the paranormal evidenced by the American public. The realm of the parapsychological is a particularly important area of research, especially to those who teach psychology. Messer and Griggs (1989) provided evidence that the prevalence of belief in the paranormal was also rather extensive in a sample of college students. Belief and involvement in certain paranormal phenomenon has been correlated with lower grades in an introductory psychology class (Messer & Griggs, 1989). Furthermore, Singer and Benassi (1981) proposed that the level of paranormal belief in the general public should be used as an index of social dislocation and of the inadequacy of the U.S.'s program of science education. Since discussions of the parapsychological/paranormal are most likely to occur in psychology classes, it is important that teachers have methods that they can employ to help their students become skeptical consumers of paranormal claims. Previous researchers have demonstrated that skepticism of paranormal claims can be increased among traditional and nontraditional college samples; however, they did so using elaborate or time consuming procedures (Banziger, 1983; Morris, 1981). This study was designed to examine the effects of exposure to skeptical inquiry on the paranormal beliefs of college students. The researcher assessed the effectiveness of a short video presentation, depicting skeptical explanations of certain paranormal phenomena, on increasing students' skepticism towards claims of the paranormal. Eighty-seven students from various psychology courses served as the participants. Five days prior to their viewing of the video, students were required to complete a series of questionnaires including the Anomalous Experience Inventory (AEI), the Paranormal Belief Scale (PBS), and a General Questionnaire (GQ). Since the AEI and the PBS were found to significantly correlate, the participants were initially classified as believers or skeptics based on their responses to the AEI. After viewing the video, the participants were again asked to complete the AEI and the PBS. Paired t-tests were employed to analyze the pre and posttest PBS scores of the believers and skeptics to determine the effects of exposure to the video. Analysis of the data revealed that the video was effective in increasing skepticism of paranormal phenomena among those initially classified as believers.
Seeger, Augustine, "Parapsychological Beliefs and the Effects of Exposure to Skeptical Inquiry" (2001). Masters Theses & Specialist Projects. Paper 700.