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Coincidences and Paranormal Belief
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis it is argued that coincidences play an important role in the formation of belief, including belief in the paranormal. Three papers are presented. In the first paper, four studies are conducted to investigate whether the often-reported remarkable correspondences in telepathy studies (using the ganzfeld procedure) could be accounted for by chance. The results suggest that they can indeed come about by chance, and that they are almost expected to happen given the large number of variables that can be perceived as “remarkably connected.” The second paper investigates whether individuals who are more sensitive to coincidences are more likely to be believers in the paranormal. Participants were exposed to artificial coincidences, which were formally defined as less or more probable, and were asked to provide remarkability ratings. The results suggest that individual variation in sensitivity to coincidences is associated with belief in the paranormal. It is concluded that because some individuals are more likely to be surprised by coincidences, these individuals may be exposed to a greater number of coincidences that are difficult or impossible to explain naturally. This exposure may lead to the development of paranormal belief. The last paper was an explorative study investigating how sensitivity to coincidences is affected by requiring individuals to assess coincidences in probabilistic terms (reflecting controlled processing) compared to relying on the emotion of surprise (automatic processing), while taking associative looseness into consideration. It was concluded that automatic and controlled processing may have an effect on the judgments of coincidences, but only when individual differences in paranormal belief or associative processing is taken into account.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University , 2013. , 68 p.
Keyword [en]
Coincidences, surprise, paranormal belief, parapsychology, telepathy, associative processing, probabilistic reasoning, Ganzfeld, associative learning, automatic processing, controlled processing
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-94376ISBN: 978-91-7447-792-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-94376DiVA: diva2:653411
Public defence
2013-12-02, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted. 

Available from: 2013-11-10 Created: 2013-10-04 Last updated: 2013-11-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Remarkable correspondences between ganzfeld mentation and target content - a psychical or psychological effect?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Remarkable correspondences between ganzfeld mentation and target content - a psychical or psychological effect?
2006 (English)In: Journal of parapsychology, ISSN 0022-3387, Vol. 70, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Remarkable correspondences between ganzfeld mentation and target content have been reported since the start of ganzfeld experiments in parapsychology. These correspondences may be due either to some form of anomalous information transfer (e.g., telepathy) or to a cognitive illusion on the part of the perceiver. This paper presents 4 studies conducted in order to investigate which of these two possibilities is the more probable. In Study 1, an external judge in a ganzfeld experiment selected 20 short segments that showed most remarkable correspondences between ganzfeld mentation and film clip content while being blind to whether the chosen film clip had been used as a target or as a decoy. Only 6 of the segments showed correspondences between the mentation and the target, which is close to chance expectation level. In Study 2, 11 students rated the 6 correspondences that were “hits” as being equally as impressive as the 14 that were “misses.” In Studies 3 and 4, the possibility that the 14 correspondences that were “misses” could have been due to a form of “displacement clairvoyance” was shown to be very unlikely. It was concluded that it is possible to obtain what at least some people consider to be very remarkable correspondences between mentation and film content by chance alone.

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-11412 (URN)
Available from: 2008-01-11 Created: 2008-01-11 Last updated: 2013-11-01Bibliographically approved
2. Sensitivity to coincidences and paranormal belief
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sensitivity to coincidences and paranormal belief
2011 (English)In: Perceptual and Motor Skills, ISSN 0031-5125, E-ISSN 1558-688X, Vol. 113, no 3, 894-908 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Often it is difficult to find a natural explanation as to why a surprising coincidence occurs. In attempting to find one, people may be inclined to accept paranormal explanations. The objective of this study was to investigate whether people with a lower threshold for being surprised by coincidences have a greater propensity to become believers compared to those with a higher threshold. Participants were exposed to artificial coincidences, which were formally defined as less or more probable, and were asked to provide remarkability ratings. Paranormal belief was measured by the Australian Sheep-Goat Scale. An analysis of the remarkability ratings revealed a significant interaction effect between Sheep-Goat score and type of coincidence, suggesting that people with lower thresholds of surprise, when experiencing coincidences, harbor higher paranormal belief than those with a higher threshold. The theoretical aspects of these findings were discussed.

Keyword
coincidences, paranormal belief
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-70429 (URN)10.2466/09.22.PMS.113.6.894-908 (DOI)000299754700018 ()
Note

The authors thank their friend and colleague, Dr. Jan Dalkvist, for his theoretical and practical support during the progress of this work.

Available from: 2012-01-20 Created: 2012-01-20 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
3. The effects of automatic and controlled processing on the perception of remarkable coincidences with regard to paranormal belief
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The effects of automatic and controlled processing on the perception of remarkable coincidences with regard to paranormal belief
(English)In: Personality and Individual Differences, ISSN 0191-8869, E-ISSN 1873-3549Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Inferior probabilistic reasoning skills and loose associations have been suggested to affect the propensity to experience coincidences, and thereby to lead to the development of belief in the paranormal. Whether probabilistic skills and loose associations affect the automatic reaction of surprise, or the subsequent cognitively controlled analysis, has not yet been investigated. The aim of this explorative study was to look at how sensitivity to coincidences is affected by requiring participants to assess coincidences in probabilistic terms (reflecting controlled processing) compared to  relying on the emotion of surprise (automatic processing), with belief in the paranormal and loose associative processing as hypothetical moderator variables. Based on an experiment that exposed participants to fabricated coincidences, it was concluded that relying on automatic processing may affect judgments of coincidences differently than relying on controlled processing, but only when individual differences in paranormal belief and associative processing are taken into account.

National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95673 (URN)
Available from: 2013-11-01 Created: 2013-11-01 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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