How does science explain the paranormal world
“Belief in the paranormal, like other beliefs, is based on stories. Humans are the only mammals that can 'talk about something that doesn't exist'. * Fictional stories serve fundamental needs. We want to understand the world. We want to understand ourselves and get meaningful answers to central questions in life. In interviews with people who believe in magic, ghosts, horoscopes and esoteric healing methods, for example, it became clear how well the paranormal is suitable for telling meaningful stories about the self in the world. These stories help to deal with critical life events such as death, burnout, illness, etc. Interestingly, all participants in our qualitative study reported such key experiences that motivated them to deal more intensively with esoteric and spiritual topics.
Critical life events, however, are not a sufficient condition for paranormal beliefs to become entrenched. In a large-scale quantitative study with around 600 participants, we found that individual differences between people play a major role. Paranormal beliefs are more likely to view the world in a meaningful way. You particularly describe yourself as open to new experiences, as creative and emotional. In addition, they tend to so-called ontological confusions, i.e. they hardly differentiate between metaphorical and literal descriptions of the world. On the other hand, they lack the cognitive ability, the relevant knowledge and the motivation to test assumptions in a rigid, systematic form. You describe yourself as more spontaneous and less conscientious.
In this context, the results from the personal interviews are again exciting: the respondents tended to deal with their beliefs, which we call 'idiosyncratic empiricism'. They consistently describe themselves as critical people who are anything but gullible. They only believed in what they experienced for themselves. For example, one of the respondents said: 'I prefer to be convinced of myself and my experiences.' This shields one's own experiences from external criticism. For the idiosyncratic empiricist, observations and experiences count - but only if they have been made by oneself. Systematic experiences of others, e.g. the results of scientific research, only become relevant when they confirm your own position.
Because of this focus on the self, paranormal stories are always an inexpensive patchwork of those assumptions that meet the needs of one's own person and their goals in life. "
* Yuval N. Harari (2013).A brief history of mankind. Munich: Pantheon.
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