Is belief in the paranormal due to social pressure? -An Essay by Kenneth Justice

an essay

This is an essay I wrote a few years ago. Social psychologists have been trying to prove for some time that belief in the paranormal stems from social pressure

This paper is a review of the article “Social Influences on Paranormal Belief: Popular Versus Scientific Support” published by the Journal Current Research in Social Psychology. In this article the hypothesis with which the researchers operated was based on the idea that beliefs in the paranormal are largely attributable to social influence: a belief that is held by a large number of people is more likely to influence an individual, than beliefs that only a small number of people adhere (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010). The authors also expected to find that the predominant views of scientists do not impact people with regard to their beliefs in the paranormal (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010).

In the study, the authors used four different groups of people and exposed to them to different alleged beliefs about the paranormal (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010). For instance, one group was exposed to the idea that the majority of the public believes in the paranormal and that the scientific community rejects the belief (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010). Another group was told that the majority of the public believes in the paranormal and that the scientific community also believes in it (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010).

According to the authors, the results of the study were very difficult to interpret based on the fact that the mean scores (which were based on a 7-point scale) of all four groups were so similar: “4.58, 4.50, 3.58, 4.80” (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010, para. 24).

The following is an excerpt of the statistical portion of the research study;

Condition 1 (25% of public believes; science rejects): 4.58 (SD = 1.92)

Condition 2 (90% of public believes; science rejects): 4.50 (SD = 1.60)

Condition 3 (25% of public believes; science accepts): 3.58 (SD = 1.84)

Condition 4 (90% of public believes; science accepts): 4.80 (SD = 1.70)

(Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010, para. 25).

  The authors believe their hypothesis was confirmed because they found that despite the similarity in mean scores they were able to establish that participants were “especially likely to reject claims that are unpopular but accepted by science” (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010, para. 25).

The fact that the mean scores of each group were so similar appears to have been a somewhat unexpected result because although the beginning of the essay produced a strong argument in favor of their hypothesis: in their discussion of the research the researchers explained that their evidence was only “relatively strong” (Ridolfo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010, para. 27).  The authors presented a number of possible reasons as to why the mean scores were unable to more effectively support their hypothesis but explained that their suggestions were “purely speculative” (Ridolofo, Baxter, & Lucas, 2010, para. 32).

Ultimately, in my opinion, because the statistics compiled by the researchers demonstrated no serious differences it is difficult to determine any possible meaning with regard to the results: whether or not the participants believed the majority of the public, believed something or did not believe in something, appeared to have no impact on their own personal beliefs toward the paranormal.


Ridolfo, H., Baxter, A., & Lucas, J. (2010). Social influences on paranormal belief: popular belief versus scientific support. Journal of Current Research in Social Psychology. 15(3).

Categories: Essays

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4 replies

  1. To be honest paranormal believe has always been apart of human history and is not something not new. Such beliefs stretch back centuries will still be around and lets face this face. In this day and age science may indicate phenomena not to exist such as a ghosts yet people still claim to experience such events. Are all people lairs or is the science is wrong. Which we know both occur.

  2. I think that many things could fall under the same reasoning such as belief in God. I say there are many things that science does not know or understand. If we are talking scientifically provable facts or scientifically provable not true then that would be science. If we are talking about anything else then it is opinion. I am not sure you can prove there are no ghost yet I am not sure you could ever prove that. I believe in angels and such yet it is not provable. I would not expect someone else to believe though because of that. They have to make up there own mind. Science given time and technology have proven many earlier theories wrong. I think we often forget this. One more point what some now call paranormal we may one day find a scientific reason for it and not call it that anymore.

  3. I had once come across a very beautiful quote which i still remember exactly “We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?” what i believe is that if there is good there is bad, if there is god there is devil, if there is science there is magic. Like every coin has two sides even this belief has to be true to some extent. 🙂 Does it make sense??

  4. I think people have imaginations which get used whether we want to or not… and you end up with certain thoughts and beliefs.

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