Researchers Stephen Gray and David Gallo from the University of Chicago set out to quantify what distinguishes believers in the paranormal from their potentially more scrupulous counterparts.
Two thousand people ged 18 to 35 completed questionnaires online that polled them about life satisfaction and mental effort and cognition. From this pool, approximately 300 of the strongest psychic believers and biggest skeptics were selected to perform a variety of tests gauging their memory and analytical skills.
The tests focused on the vulnerability of the subjects’ memories (ability to distinguish between true events and imagined experiences) as well as their critical and analytical thinking (such as belief in conspiracy theories and logic).
So what was the one trait that separated believers from skeptics?
While both groups showed cognitive similarities, skeptics consistently outperformed believers on analytical, vocabulary, and logical thinking tests. While this doesn’t prove that poorer analytical skills cause people to believe in the supernatural, it could represent that they are less prone to critically evaluate certain situations that they then might attribute to the paranormal.
It certainly makes sense that a skeptic, true to the nature of the word, is more likely to doubt or question a specific situation or event whereas others less inclined to analyze a phenomenon may classify it as a paranormal event. Believers are likely influenced by those around them, however, as the study also showed that 70% of supporters of paranormal beliefs shared their convictions with family and friends.
The good news for believers: across the original 2,000+ participants in the first survey, believers were found to have greater life satisfaction, which goes to show that criticizing and questioning every single thing in life may leave us more bitter than those who choose to give credit to something beyond our understanding.
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