COMMITTEE FOR SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION OF CLAIMS OF THE PARANORMAL
- James Alcock establishes a theory with the aid of evolutionary and cognitive psychology
to demonstrate how humans establish beliefs (1).
- We all hold beliefs about random aspects of life but no matter the perspective these
ideas came from somewhere and sometimes have no rational argument behind them
- Alcock questions how society can believe in occult matter considering the increased
amount of education in society. (3)
- The human body’s internal system interprets external stimuli and amalgamates it with
other information to provide a functional belief for the person in that moment. For
example the fight/flight system. (4)
- All beliefs are formed the same way whether they have explicit evidence or not. (5)
THE LEARNING UNIT
- The learning unit is described as an automatic association btw two events without a
critical examination of the cause.
o They stated “condemned” to process but if we know this is the way we think
couldn’t we take responsibility to change it? This is similar to our automatic
association btw sweets and fats because our ancestors needed it to survive. We
crave these things but have realized it is causing an obesity problem and
therefore are working on a universal way to change it based on the new ways of
- All decisions are based on the goal of survival which therefore means reproduction and
therefore logic and reasoning are not useful in the sense of Darwin’s Natural Selection.
A quick response for survival in the wild was needed but in today’s society of more
complex dangers certain things need to be thought about logically. (refer to sweets) EX.
RABBIT AND TWIG (7)
- Unique pairings seem to be more momentous and enduring that result in a rapid
connection without any other thought in order to survive (ex. Hot stove and pain).(8)
- He argues that there is a heuristic of combining events even if it only happened once
because it is so significant. We don’t associate the ordinary which results in illogical or
even false connections(9). Emotions and the complexity of human feelings tend to also
play a role in the connection (10).
o Throughout the paper I have noticed that the only examples and references were
general. There was no reference to theories or to where these ideas came from.
I would argue that their validity and credibility was diminished as a result. I understand why they may not have because it was written for a magazine that
would be targeted to the general public.
THE CRITICAL THINKING UNIT
- Social learning is where we learn from someone else and acquire that belief which in
turn can counteract our learning unit connections (11).
o This argument may be true but must learn from someone and the teacher may be
wrong which is why we learn to not be dualistic and assess things for ourselves in
a rationalistic way based on all of our experiences.
- James then argues that there is a dichotomy in thinking there we learn to use rational
thinking based on our social learning yet we still have situations where we can use our
intuition from automatic learning which may be labelled as faith (12).
- An argument is that instinct tends to be more powerful than rationality (13). Ex.
Roulette. All black – intuition: red soon vs. rational: each independent and next could be
- We can use critical thinking when we want to or feel that it is necessary. (14)
THE YEARNING UNIT (reread!!!)))
- James suggests that based on human complexity thinking, both critical and intuitive,
may be limited by our needs/wants which makes our research flawed. One theory is
that anxiety is popular and is usually on a topic that is unclear or unknown and therefore
belief in something other than science is turned to (15).
THE INPUT UNIT
- Our brains work to assimilate and associate information from all the different sources
that it comes from into patterns. The information therefore only becomes relevant if it
fits into one of these other patterns. Ex. Paranormal not being effective if not similar
o Yet this theory could include the other ways that we make connections which is
o Seems similar to critical thinking…
- Argument was made that the emotions and feelings that are sometimes automatic
responses can help make a stronger link for certain aspects rather than logical and
rational thinking. This relates back to the learning unit of the brain’s automatic associate yet also to the nervous system that starts to increase heart rate other body
- Additionally, he argues that the brain can create experiences that are not actually
happening to the person such as a hallucination. Reality and perception are hard to tell
apart which may lead to belief in paranormal activity. (18)
o I am wondering if belief vs. entertaining the idea were addressed because lots of
people see it in movies yet don’t actually believe in it.
THE MEMORY UNIT
- The notion that the images that humans see in their memory are not always accurate
which can render a bias or distortion in what actually happened. This could make them
think that sometime happened when really it didn’t (19)
o There was no example for this when he could have used witness testimony or
could have argued for ask friends a story and get them to all tell back what
happened. Almost guaranteed it will be different
THE ENVIRONMENTAL FEEDBACK UNIT
- Based on all of the information above the best way to check a belief is to check with the
world around us yet even if we truly believe this may not change our perspective. (20)
- As we go along we continue to make beliefs based on our internal system yet have the
choice to be critical about it. Most people will not think critically but will remain
thinking based on the automatic processes that biases tend to accompany. His ultimate
claim is to be critical of what is given and be aware of our biases.
o I think that overall this article is trying to tell us to think about the external world
and how our body works. Man was not made perfectly and therefore in today’s
society survival is based on the fittest mind and our analysis of the information
The impact of this result is to allow people to be more conciencious of
their decisions and beliefs around concepts that are clearly not
understood. The implications of this though may be negative for society
in that their general happiness may be impeded on. There was an
example of how ppl with depression tend to see reality better but in
society we deem them to have a mental problem and therefore maybe
being skeptical of all thought and perceptions could cause ppl to not be
happy with life. I can see it making people open to new ideas but can see
the devastating large negative impact it may have. SINGER AND BENNASSI
OCCULT BELIEFS (KNOWLEDGE OF PARANORMAL VS. SCIENCE)
MEDIA DISTORTIONS, SOCIAL UNCERTAINTY, AND DEFICIENCIES OF HUMAN REASONING SEEM
TO BE AT THE BASIS OF OCCULT BELIEF
So we are comparing science to paranormal and I get that there is little
logic or reasoning but maybe it is simply a different way of viewing
something. The scientific beliefs and theories were developed by people
just the same as occult beliefs were made
The integration of different disciplines and their view on the topic makes
this quite a diverse paper
Triangulation of science, psyc, and sociology aspects.
1) Singer and Benassi argue that it is important to understand phenomena that are present
in society such as the increase in occult belief that has been seen statistically.
2) One major concern for them was that people who are believed to be rational and level –
headed such as scientific college students too believe in occult beliefs.
3) They argued that subliminally these irrational beliefs “challenge*d+ the validity of
science”. P.49 Psychologists may be concerned about these beliefs because allows an
evaluation of different ways that people may think.
4) They argue that sociologists may be interested because there is an alteration is social
gatherings such as religion and that social situations may be the cause.
5) It was stated that there was some validity to occult beliefs but this wasn’t based on the
rational logical but on the mind defects or social explanations.
6) 7) Triangulation was necessary because beliefs seem to have very different reasons for
being implemented such as “religion…escapist entertainment…media
misinformation…industrialized nations…social movements” (p.49).
7) They addressed that there is missing information and their essay should be a
preliminary exploratory paper on the different factors that contribute to these beliefs.
8) Singer and Benassi argue that the bombardment of media, that is uncritical and