ARE THERE DIFFERENT COGNITIVE STRUCTURES BEHIND PARANORMAL BELIEFS?
Subject: Parapsychology (Research)
Author: SCHRIEVER, FRIEDERIRE
Pub Date: 09/01/1999
Publication: Name: The Journal of Parapsychology Publisher: Parapsychology Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 1999 Parapsychology Press ISSN: 0022-3387
Issue: Date: Sept, 1999 Source Volume: 63 Source Issue: 3
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 60054213
Full Text: ABSTRACT: Attitudes towards paranormal and other anomalous phenomena frequently find their expression in contradictory positions of extreme agreement and rejection. Differences in the cognitive processing mechanisms may cause these contradictory positions. To examine this hypothesis, an empirical study recorded patterns of justification for paranormal convictions as manifestations of cognitive structures. Therefore, a questionnaire survey and an interview were conducted with 60 adult subjects (30 believers and 30 nonbelievers in the paranormal). The study started from the question, "What kind of cognitive structures behind stated beliefs with regard to the paranormal can be uncovered trough the analysis of subjective theories that persons have formed about the life-long development of their own convictions?" To answer that question, the subjects were asked in a semi-standardized interview (a) for their attitudes (approval vs. rejection) towards selected paranormal and other anomalous phenomena, and (b) for th e justification of their subjective convictions. A qualitative content analysis categorized and analyzed motive variables with reference to (a) the phenomena themselves and (b) the respective judgements on those phenomena. The distribution of the 36 motive categories among the groups of believers and nonbelievers provides first indications of the cognitive structures operating in the subjects who are trying to argue their case. Believers and nonbelievers in the paranormal basically use the very same cognitive structures to substantiate and justify their convictions. All categories are used by both groups under comparison.

A multi-level analysis (CHAID: Chisquare Automatic Interaction Detection) of the linguistic productions demonstrates whether and how the justifications for positive and negative convictions with regard to the selected paranormal phenomena show structural cognitive differences. CHAID is a multivariable procedure for the analysis of contrasting groups of nominal and ordinal data. This method of data analysis reveals differential dependencies between categories, if there are any, and makes it possible to determine the characteristic motive patterns for each of the 26 registered paranormal and other anomalous phenomena. Each phenomena requires a specially constructed justification and cannot be accounted for by one general model of justification. Phenomenon-specific patterns among the motive variables were also uncovered among positively-judged paranormal phenomena and also among negatively-judged phenomena. In order to improve comparability, the multiplicity of motive categories as predictors is reduced and sup erior categories, or "clusters," are formed by combining categories with cognate meaning. The bundling of categories serves to outline the structures much more clearly. The units under consideration (i.e., the motive categories) thus are reduced from 36 to 6. They are termed: Subjective Experiences, Inner States, Rational Motivation, External Stores, Social Aspects, and Others' Explanations.

The analyses also show that agreement and rejection of paranormal phenomena make use of the same cognitive structures, even though they do so in different ways with regard to the phenomena and to judgements on the phenomena. There are findings that support the hypothesis of cognitive differences underlying different paranormal convictions; for example, phenomenon-specific motive patterns were found. Thus, the hypothesis that assumes basic cognitive differences associated with different paranormal convictions has been confirmed.
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