Mind reading and the ability to predict thefuture are not skills people generally associate with the human race. Yet,research shows many people genuinely believe in the existence of psychicpowers.


You would think that instances of provenpsychic fraud over the years would weaken the credibility of psychic claims.There have been historical cases, such as Lajos Pap, the Hungarian spiritualistmedium, who was found to be faking animal appearances at seances. And then morerecently, self described psychic James Hydrick was revealed as a trickster.Hydrick confessed his paranormal demonstrations were tricks learned in prison.

你会认为,多年以来通灵人士被揭穿为骗子的情况会削弱主张通灵存在的可信度。历史上已然存在一些案例,比如说匈牙利灵媒Lajos Pap,他在降神会上被人揭发假扮动物的外表。之后是在距今更近,自称能通灵的詹姆斯·海德里克被发现是个骗子。海德里克坦白说他那些超自然的表演都是监狱里学来的把戏。
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Another notable example involvedtelevangelist Peter Popoff. His wife used a wireless transmitter to broadcastinformation about sermon attendees to Popoff via an earpiece. Popoff claimed toreceive this information by paranormal means and rose to fame hosting anationally televised programme, during which he performed seemingly miraculouscures on audience members.


But despite such cases, there are stillmany people who firmly believe in the power of psychic ability. According to aUS Gallup survey, for example, more than one-quarter of people believe humanshave psychic abilities – such as telepathy and clairvoyance.


The believers


A recent report may help to shed some lighton why people continue to believe in psychic powers. The study tested believersand sceptics with the same level of education and academic performance andfound that people who believe in psychic powers think less analytically. Thismeans that they tend to interpret the world from a subjective personalperspective and fail to consider information critically.


Believers also often view psychic claims asconfirmatory evidence – regardless of their evidential basis. The case of ChrisRobinson, who refers to himself as a “dream detective”, demonstrates this.


Robinson claims to have foreseen terroristattacks, disasters and celebrity deaths. His assertions derive from limited andquestionable evidence. Tests conducted by Gary Schwartz at the University ofArizona provided support for Robinson’s ability, however, other researchersusing similar methods failed to confirm Schwartz’s conclusion.

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Vague and general


Psychic claims are often general and vague– such as foretelling a plane crash or celebrity death – and this is in partwhy so many people believe in the possibility of psychic abilities.


This is known as The Barnum effect, acommon psychological phenomenon whereby people tend to accept vague, generalpersonality descxtions as uniquely applicable to themselves.


Research for example, has shown thatindividuals give high accuracy ratings to descxtions of their personalitythat supposedly are tailored specifically to them, that are in fact vague andgeneral enough to apply to a wide range of people. The name references thecircus man Phineas Taylor Barnum, who had a reputation as a masterpsychological manipulator.


Impossible to validate


Many psychic claims have also provedimpossible to confirm. A classic illustration is Uri Geller’s contention thathe “willed” the football to move during a penalty kick at Euro 96. The ballmovement occurred spontaneously in an uncontrolled environment and Geller madethe claim retrospectively.


When professed abilities are subject toscientific scrutiny researchers generally discredit them. This was true ofDerek Ogilvie in the 2007 TV documentary The Million Dollar Mind Reader.Investigation concluded Ogilvie genuinely believed he possessed powers, but wasnot actually able to read babies’ minds.


And when scientists have endorsed psychicclaims, criticism has typically followed. This occurred in the 1970s whenphysicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff published a paper in the prestigiousjournal Nature, which supported the notion that Uri Geller possessed genuinepsychic ability. Psychologists, such as Ray Hyman refuted this – highlightingmajor methodological flaws. These included a hole in the laboratory wall thatafforded views of drawings that Geller “psychically” reproduced.


Mixed evidence


Another factor that facilitates belief inpsychic ability is the existence of scientific research that provides positivefindings. This reinforces believers’ views that claims are genuine andphenomenon real, but ignores that fact that published studies are oftencriticised and replication is necessary in order for general acceptance tooccur.


One prominent example of this was a paperproduced by social psychologist Daryl Bem in the high-quality Journal ofPersonality and Social Psychology. It was said the research showed support forthe existence of precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition(affective apprehension) of a future event. But other researchers failed toreproduce these results.


Mind set

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So it seems that despite occurrences offakery, forgery and fraudulence – as well as mixed evidence – people will stillcontinue to believe in psychic phenomena. Indeed, research has shown that onein three Americans feel they have experienced a psychic moment – and nearlyhalf of US women claim they have felt the presence of a spirit.


Whether this is down to lack of analyticalskills, genuine experiences, or just in a bid to make the world a little bitmore interesting, it seems believers will continue to believe – despite scienceindicating otherwise.