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Supernatural beliefs and superstitions can be scientifically explained: Belief in the supernatural originates in childhood

06.12.2006
Supernatural beliefs can best be explained by looking at an individual's tendency to rely on indistinguished childhood perceptions of the world.

These perceptions tend to mix the core attributes of non-living, living and psychical things. In adults this mixing of core knowledge can operate in conjunction with scientific and other knowledge acquired through education.

Reliance on uniformed, childhood perceptions of the world is related to the individual's tendency to think intuitively or, in other words, subconsciously. These are the conclusions reached by Docent Marjaana Lindeman's research project "Enchantment of superstitions", which was funded by the Academy of Finland.

According to the study, beliefs, whether called superstitious, paranormal, supernatural or magical, are all one and the same. "If you believe in one supernatural phenomenon, you generally believe in other supernatural phenomena, as well. You could therefore say that there is a general tendency to believe in such phenomena. The propensity for paranormal beliefs is also the singlemost powerful variable in faith healing, or alternative medicine," states Lindeman.

The first phase of the study involved 3240 students of varying educational levels from all over Finland. Follow-up studies involved some 500 students, on whom experimental studies were also conducted. In the study, students were asked about their beliefs in, for example, witches, telepathy, horoscopes, God and ghosts. In addition to this, the test subjects' personality, values, knowledge constructs and ways of processing information were examined using psychological evaluation methods.

According to the results, university students only have a few beliefs in the supernatural, less than students with a lower level of education. For university students holding supernatural beliefs the level of education did nothing to diminish them. Personality, emotional factors, the need for explanation and control, gender, values, intelligence and analytical thought did not seem to have any real impact on supernatural beliefs.

Lindeman poses the question: "Are there any historical examples where superstition has been proven as fact or the paranormal scientific? No. New information has not brought us any closer to the supernatural, but rather farther away from it."

Niko Rinta | alfa
Further information:
http://www.aka.fi

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