The capacity to read minds and foretell the future are not generally associated with the human race. Despite this, research suggests that a large percentage of people believe in psychic powers.
You’d think that confirmed psychic fraud would erode the credibility of psychic claims over time. There have been historical cases, such as Lajos Pap, a Hungarian spiritualist medium who was caught making up animal appearances during seances. Then, more recently, self-described clairvoyant James Hydrick was revealed to be a charlatan. Hydrick stated that he developed his paranormal skills while imprisoned.
Despite such examples, many people still believe in the power of psychic ability. A Gallup poll done in the United States found that more than one-quarter of people believe humans have psychic abilities such as telepathy and clairvoyance.
Concerning the believers
Recent findings may provide some light on why people believe in psychic abilities. The researchers examined believers and sceptics with equal levels of schooling and academic performance and determined that believers reasoned less analytically. This implies that people tend to see the world via a subjective personal lens and fail to objectively examine facts.
Many people believe in psychic skills because psychic claims are often generic and imprecise, such as foretelling a plane accident or celebrity death. The Barnum effect is a typical psychological phenomena in which people perceive broad, general personality traits to be specifically pertinent to them.
According to one study, people give high accuracy scores to personality characteristics that appear to be tailored specifically to them but are in fact imprecise and generic enough to apply to a wide variety of people. The name pays homage to circus owner Phineas Taylor Barnum, a skilled psychological manipulator.
Validation is difficult.
Many psychic claims have also proven to be difficult to validate. A noteworthy example is Uri Geller’s assertion in Euro 96 that he “willed” the football to move during a penalty kick. Geller made the claim after the ball moved spontaneously in an uncontrolled context.
When claimed abilities are scientifically evaluated, researchers frequently discard them. Derek Ogilvie showed this in the 2007 television show The Million Dollar Mind Reader. According to the study, Ogilvie honestly believed he has supernatural abilities, yet he was unable to read the thoughts of babies.
When science has supported psychic claims, there is generally a backlash. This occurred in the 1970s, when scientists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff published an article in the prestigious journal Nature that supported Uri Geller’s claim to possess actual psychic ability. Psychologists such as Ray Hyman disputed this, pointing up serious methodological flaws.