Psi researchers think the same way as academic sceptics

by | Jun 21, 2024 | Parapsychology, Psi (ESP, etc.), Psychology, Story Ideas | 0 comments

June 2024

A new study by three researchers at the University of Virginia shows that the cognitive style of psi researchers is no different than that of academics who are sceptic to psi phenomena.

Why are people more or less prone to believing in psi phenomena like precognition, telepathy and survival after death? One mainstream physicalist hypothesis is that it has to do with differences in various aspects of cognition, including critical thinking and scientific reasoning.

Previous studies have detected such differences among lay individuals. But when it comes to academic researchers who investigate psychic phenomena, it doesn’t hold true.

The study conducted by Marieta Pehlivanova, Marina Weiler and Bruce Greyson, and published in Frontiers in Psychology, demonstrates that “academics who work with psi differ from lay psi individuals, but not from sceptics, in actively open-minded thinking. In other words, despite their high belief in psi phenomena, psi researchers demonstrate a commitment to sound reasoning about evidence that is no different from that of sceptics”.

The findings suggest that the two groups — who are philosophically and empirically at odds regarding evidence for psi phenomena — “nonetheless do not differ in their endorsement of the principles of ‘good’ thinking about evidence”.

In the literature on lay believers and their cognitive styles, the leading hypothesis is that “deficient” cognitive characteristics are responsible for strong psi beliefs. But psychology professor Etzel Cardeña at Lund university in Sweden and others have shown that staunch sceptics actually have a cognitive style akin to staunch believers.

Both groups are dominated by a style called NFC, a need for cognitive closure. A person reasoning this way has an intolerance for complexity and ambiguity and quickly settles for an answer, even if it is not correct or optimal, to end further information processing.

The opposite style is labeled AOT, actively open-minded thinking, which is essential when dealing with complex phenomena and contradicting results.

The Virginia study investigated AOT and NFC among four different groups: academic psi researchers, lay psi believers, academic sceptics, and lay sceptics. 

The FJN would argue that there is a basic premise in this discussion that needs to be scrutinized. A 2016 study on psi believers and sceptics pointed out that individual differences related to psi beliefs may indeed be viewed as differences, rather than “deficits”, and need not be “good or bad”. This is pivotal. Part of the problem with mainstream (Western) physicalism is its insistence that rational thinking is all that is required to understand life, whereas deeply human faculties like intuition, feeling and sense perception are largely disregarded.

According to a Gallup survey, 73 percent of Americans believe in at least one of 10 psi phenomena. In a 2022 poll, 63 percent of respondents said they had had at least one paranormal experience. Despite these high numbers, belief in psi is often dismissed as irrational and unscientific.

Anders Bolling

Story Ideas

Identical twins wanted for telepathy study

June 2024 The Institute for Noetic Sciences, IONS, is now looking for people who want to participate in a scientific investigation of telepathy. The American institute is particularly seeking identical twins or other “emotionally bonded pairs” over the age of 18. The...

Remote viewers perform better in certain emotional states

June 2024 Precognition -- the ability to sense seemingly unpredictable future events -- is one of the most robust psi phenomena. A number of studies have provided evidence for precognition, where participants must implicitly or explicitly predict future outcome of...

Study: Single focus in meditation boosts brainwaves best

May/June 2024 Despite the increasing popularity of meditation in the Western world, there is still very limited knowledge about the neural correlates of this practice. In a new study done in collaboration with a Tibetan monastery in India, Italian researchers show...

Is it possible be ‘no one’, philosophers ask 

June 2024 The entire June 2024 issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies is dedicated to one intricate question: Is subjectless consciousness possible? Ten philosophers offer their respective take. All experience needs an experiencer, notes Galen Strawson, but that...

Terminal lucidity defies mainstream view of brain

June 2024 People who have had Alzheimer's or dementia for years sometimes display a strange surge of vitality shortly before death. They recognise relatives, remember names and events and converse coherently. Hours or days later, they pass away. This phenomenon was...

Lack of “inner voice” seen as clue to consciousness enigma 

May/June 2024 In mindfulness and meditation practices, the importance of silencing your “inner voice” is often emphasised. The never-ending chatter going on inside is sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind”. Thinking can obviously be any kind of inner imagining,...

Religious scientists work in culture of “assumed atheism”

May 2024 Scientists who personally practice a faith tradition do manage to reconcile the seemingly at-odds worldviews. Many say that while it can be challenging and uncomfortable to speak openly at work, due to a perceived taboo of being spiritual in such an objective...

Astrobiologist: Consciousness preceded life

May 2024 Most scientists believe that consciousness emerged after life, as a product of evolution. But there is reason to believe that consciousness preceded life, argues astrobiologist Stuart Hameroff and collaborators Anirban Bandyopadhyay and Dante Lauretta, in the...